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Wanted Experienced Enrollment Professional: The world is your oyster! #admissions #emchat

September 10, 2014

Wanted Experienced Enrollment Professional: The world is your oyster!

Earlier this week I received an email from Witt-Kieffer, a higher leaderships search firm, that congratulated people who recently landed new enrollment leadership roles. It was an impressive list of people—some of whom I know and some I don’t. I wish each new leader well as they transition and take over the reigns of leadership and their new institution; we certainly face interesting times in enrollment leadership and I welcome new energy, perspective and ideas.

In addition to the congratulations offered to a couple of dozen people who have landed new gigs, there was another interesting list of openings for which Witt-Kieffer is seeking leadership.

That list is below and includes some very high profile positions as you’ll see below:

  • Boston College, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management
  • College of William and Mary, Associate Provost for Enrollment and Dean of Admission
  • Dickinson College, Vice President for Enrollment, Marketing and Communications
  • New Jersey Institute of Technology, Associate Vice President for Academic and Enrollment Services
  • Olin College of Engineering, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid
  • Portland State University, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs
  • Rutgers University – Camden, Associate Chancellor for Enrollment Management
  • Trinity College, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid
  • University at Buffalo, Director of Undergraduate Admissions
  • University of California, Los Angeles, Deputy Director of Undergraduate Admission
  • University of Texas at Austin, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management
  • Washington and Lee University, Vice President for Admissions and Financial Aid

Looking at that list, the impressive titles and range of places where positions are available, I am led to believe that experienced enrollment professionals have a lot of options if they are thinking about changing positions!

Honestly, I don’t know what to make of this.  I know there is a great deal of turnover and churn of leadership in our profession right now and am withholding judgment to determine if this churn is good or bad. Is this good? Is this unusual? Is this a sign of time? How should I interpret all of this?

The one take-away from this list is:  If you are an ambitious, experienced enrollment leader, the world is your oyster! That is, if you are ready for a new challenge and secure enough to leave your current post.

What do you think about the turnover in leadership?

W. Kent Barnds @bowtieadmission


Teaching, preaching and competing: What I love about college #admissions

September 3, 2014

I’ve been lazy about contributing to my blog in recent months and thought my return to @bowtieadmission should be a tribute to college admission.

So, here it goes. I love college admissions work because, as professionals, we get to teach, preach and compete and I think that’s a pretty powerful combination for a fulfilling career.

I am a teacher (and so are you)

I know there’s some danger describing what we do in college admissions as teaching in an environment that has a pretty clear definition of who teaches and who does not. But, after more than twenty years in college admissions work, I consider myself and my colleagues to be teachers. Not only are we teachers—we are excellent teachers. We teach, generally, about a critically important process—the college search and selection process. The curriculum changes from year to year as processes, the environment and the competitive landscape shifts. We have to keep on top of the changes and have an obligation to keep our teaching fresh in order to serve our students effectively.

We also engage in a great deal of one-on-one teaching through the sort of advising we do. I can think of no more rewarding teaching than those intimate conversations with prospective students as they navigate the most important decision they’ll make up to this point in their life. All of those interviews, phone calls, one-on-one conversations and opportunities to advise prospective students is the teaching we do as admissions officers and it is tremendously rewarding.

Oh, and, we also do a little bit of grading, just like teachers, during the selection process; that’s a pretty important parts of what we do.

For those admissions officers, like me, who are in leadership roles, we engage in different sort of teaching through training new staff in the profession, the ethics of our work and the Xs and Os of the day-to-day work in the office. This is critically important teaching for our institutions and for the profession as a whole and it is this teaching role that keeps me excited about this great profession.

The bottom-line is that if you don’t think of yourself as a teacher, you should.

Preach it like you mean it

These days the word passion is overused. However, the most effective admissions officers talk about the institution they represent like they are spreading the gospel. They are passionate about the subject, institution, people, place and product. Admissions officers are evangelists for the type of institutions they represent, as well as the individual institution. I’ve witnessed countless information sessions, college night conversations, and one-on-one exchanges that resemble a member of the clergy or layperson in the pulpit engaged in sharing an important, impassioned message or lesson. The most effective admissions officers get behind their institution and the type of institution they represent in the same way a preacher gets behind sharing the gospel. To be successful, long-term, in this work, one has to get fired up about the people and place and spread the good news by preaching it high and low, on- and off-line and with the passion of an evangelist.

For me, as a product of a residential liberal arts college and having witnessed the transformative value of similar colleges for which I’ve worked, I look forward to preaching the good word each and every day.

Competition is good

While we all like to say, “we want every college to be successful,” the truth is that the best admissions counselors like to compete and are very competitive by their nature. In my view, the refrain competition is good is like Gordon Gecko’s, “Greed is good.” Not everyone will embrace this part of the work, but the fact is competition is an important part of this work. One’s competitive nature may be more internally-driven and might manifest itself with an overwhelming need to continually improve. However, there are plenty of great admissions people who I know who compete hard and may approach things differently. There are some for whom it is important to identify a competitor against whom it’s important to always win.

Competition and competing is what makes this job fun and fresh. Competing for mind-share, market, applications and enrollments is tremendously rewarding. Competing is not for the faint of heart and one has to have a tough stomach. But, engaging in goal-driven work and knowing that others (especially at tuition-driven and enrollment-urgent colleges) depend on you and the work you do is fulfilling and is among the many things that keeps me excited about this job and profession.

What do you love about college admissions?

And, do you consider yourself a teacher, preacher and competitor?

W. Kent Barnds @bowtieadmission

Getting inside the head of a 17-year-old. #admissions #emchat #highered

March 19, 2014

This post also appeared in the Augustana College publication, Acknowledge. 

In admissions, we often describe our work as “trying to get inside the head of a 17-year-old.” However, when I began in 1992, I couldn’t have foreseen a day like today and a resource like Facebook, which really does allow us to get inside the thoughts of students thinking about Augustana.

When our admissions office experimented with the launch of a Class of 2015 Facebook page, we saw modest participation. Since those early efforts we’ve expanded the pages to include parents, and now see robust and enthusiastic participation. Patterns among deciding and committed students provide insight into what’s on their minds, and almost in real time.

Through our review of questions asked on the Class of 2016 page, we were able to tailor communication to more effectively address questions at the right times. In response to questions about housing selection and parking, we launched a very successful series of videos featuring Gus, our mascot, on the Class of 2017 page. And based on the questions last year, we’ll expand the videos for the Class of 2018 to better serve our students during the transition.

While surveying comments on the Class Facebook pages has certainly helped us communicate better with students, the real benefit is to witness in real time the enthusiasm students have for Augustana. It is through these posts that many of our future students stake their preliminary claim in the Augustana experience. In the past few days, I’ve read of the dreams of veterinarians, speech pathologists, accountants, political scientists, teachers, neuroscientists and aspiring Ph.Ds.

I’ve read of a student looking for roommates in search of a “coherent color scheme.” There are enthusiastic posts about the LGBT community on campus. There are all-state tuba players, bassoonists and a student insistent upon starting a club marching band! Student-athletes in all of our 23 programs post about their excitement to be a Viking.

The posts reveal aspirations of leadership in and outside the classroom, desire to build community, find a roommate and be a part of something big. Facebook provides us with a way to literally read the thoughts of the students seriously considering Augustana, in a way we never could have imagined 20 years ago.

W. Kent Barnds a.k.a. @bowtieadmission

Pick up the phone… please! #emchat #admissions #highered

March 12, 2014

Maybe I am “old school,” but I still believe a telephone call is one of the most important communication methods for college admissions counselors. The give and take—relaying and gathering information—is unmatched and frequently mutually beneficial. However, it’s harder and harder to get students and parents to pick up the phone.

While this is not always the case and there are certainly surprising instances when people do answer (i.e. in a public restroom, at concerts, in class or at work), it’s become increasingly difficult to reach people by phone.

I get it. We have the technology and the inclination to screen calls.

I am guilty of it. I screen my calls at home. I have sympathy for families who are bombarded with calls—wanted and unwanted. I filter calls and answer only those from organizations or people I know or from whom I want to hear. Caller ID serves as my gate-keeper and enables me to spend time talking to the people and organizations that I want to talk to, while ignoring others.

I suspect this is the same behavior for students and parents who are overwhelmed with phone calls. But, to be honest, I am not sure that’s the case. I wish I could be certain.

Are students and families just too busy to take calls?

Is it just not the right time to answer a call?

Are our calls being ignored because of lack of interest?

Are students and families too timid to “break up” with us?

I suppose many families might wonder why we are calling? And that a good question. I like to think we are calling to relay or gather important information, rather than bug, harass or bother students. When we make a call or schedule a call it is usually with a clear purpose in mind.

For example, right now, we are making three very specific types of calls: 1. To inform a student that an element of his or her application is missing and we need it to complete a review and offer an admissions decision; 2. To determine if a student remains interested in Augustana; and, 3. To discuss the detail of their financial aid award letter and make sure the student and family understands every detail of the award they’ve received.

Each of these calls is designed to serve our students and provide timely decisions and communicate thoroughly. However, we can’t serve students and families in this way if they don’t answer the phone.

I plead with students to pick up the phone, especially this time of year. Pick up the phone and provide feedback—tell those colleges you are still interested in that you remain interested, and break up with the rest. Pick up the phone and communicate with us, even if it is to take the 20 seconds to say, “I am no longer interested in your college.” Don’t leave us trying to figure out if you are interested and playing hard to get, or if you’ve moved on.

I also plead with parents and partners—guidance and independent counselors—to join me in this plea to help stop the unnecessary calls and serve all of our interested students and families more effectively by eliminating the guesswork about who’s in and who’s out.

When the phone rings and it’s from a college, just think of it as a question—and answer it. 

W. Kent Barnds a.k.a. @bowtieadmission

Looking at the competition: A comparison of Net Price Calculators from student’s view. #admissions #emchat #highered #financialaid

February 19, 2014

Since the federally mandated introduction of the net price calculator (NPC) in October of 2011, I’ve been curious to know what kinds of results students would get if they completed our calculator and those from some of our competitors.

I’ve been curious to know if the NPC results in a clearer “apples to apples” comparison of cost.

I’ve been curious to see how other colleges present information to students.

I’ve been curious to better understand the impressions about affordability and value with which a student might be left after completing ours and a competitor’s.

I’ve been curious to know how we stack up against flagship universities and other private colleges.

Lots of curiosity on my part, but no action…until now.

Over the recent holiday break, I asked one of our student ambassadors, assisted by the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, to undertake a project to complete our net price calculator and NPCs from some of our top competitors. To initiate the project, I developed an archetype academic profile and worked with the Office of Financial Assistance to develop four different financial backgrounds to use in our experiment (these profiles are listed below). After developing the profiles for our students, we developed a list of competitor schools based on data from the National Clearinghouse and those schools with which we overlap most frequently.

My initial list included 10 colleges (Bradley University, DePaul University, Elmhurst College, University of Iowa, Illinois Wesleyan University, Loyola University, Marquette University, North Central College, Northern Illinois University, and University of Illinois–Champaign-Urbana). When I asked my colleagues in Institutional Research and Assessment to look at my initial findings, they thought it would be good to add Gustavus Adolphus College (peer), Loras College (regional competition), Luther College (peer), Monmouth College (regional competition) and Northwestern University (competition for highest-achieving students).


Academic Profile

ACT: 25; Class Rank: top 20%;

and, G.P.A. 3.2

Student 1: $75,000 household income, family of 3, 1 in college, assets $5,000

Parents’ marital status: Married

State of residence: CO

Family size: 3

Number in college: 1

Parents’ income: $69,662

Parents’ income taxes paid: $4,376

Parent 1 income earned: $56,800

Parent 2 does not work

Parents’ untaxed income: $5,000

Parents’ assets: $5,000

Student income: $2,850

Student income taxes paid: $0

Student untaxed income: $0

Student assets: 160


Student 2: $120,000 household income, family of 4, 1 in college, assets $10,000

Parents’ marital status: Married

State of Residence: IL

Family size: 4

Number in college: 1 

Parents’ income: $108,084

Parents’ income taxes paid: $10,041

Parent 1 income earned: $89,792

Parent 2 income earned: $7,154

Parents’ untaxed income: $9,855

Parents’ assets: $10,000

Student income: 1,340

Student income taxes paid: $0

Student untaxed income: $0

Student assets: $2,300


Student 3: $200,000 household income, family of 5, 2 in college, assets $20,000

Parents’ marital status: Married

State of Residence: IL

Family size: 5

Number in college: 2 

Parents’ income: $179,670

Parents’ income taxes paid: $23,676

Parent 1 income earned: $175,480

Parent 2 does not work

Parents’ untaxed income: $17,000

Parents’ assets: $20,000

Student income: $3,000

Student income taxes paid: $0

Student untaxed income: $0

Student assets: $8,000


Student 4: $45,000 household income, family of 4, 1 in college, assets $0

Parents’ marital status: Divorced/Single

State of Residence: IL

Family size: 4

Number in college: 1 

Parents’ income: $46,230

Parents’ income taxes paid: $183

Parents’ income earned: $47,900

Parents’ untaxed income: $0

Parents’ assets: $0

Student income: $1,000

Student income taxes paid: $0

Student untaxed income: $0

Student assets: $200 

* We also made the oldest parent 55, since it was a question asked by a couple of institutions.


So, what did we find?

Before I get to the results, and try to make some sense of it all, I thought the following observations might be of interest.

It will cost you nothing to attend: A couple of the college’s NPCs include the Parent PLUS loan in calculating the out-of-pocket cost for students. This is an interesting technique. The “estimated net price” is clearly outlined, but when the PLUS loan is included under the guise of “eligibility for other aid programs” it can make the out-of-pocket cost appear to be $0.

Indirect costs are wildly different: Indirect costs, which include things like books, personal expenses, and transportation, are considered in calculating the amount of financial need a family has, and therefore indirect costs have a direct relationship to demonstrated financial need. What I found surprising is the dramatic range in indirect costs, which varied on the high end from $4,600 (regional public) to the low end of $2,400 (private, national liberal arts college). The wild variation seemed odd to me.

Work Study is applied inconsistently and amounts vary: The amount of Work Study availability varied from $1,200 to $2,500 for the same student with the same need levels. Furthermore, there were a number of NPCs that include Work Study as a resource used to reduce the cost to attend. This is an interesting technique because it, of course, lowers the cost to attend. But, Work Study earnings are seldom used to pay a student’s bill.

Some colleges offer very broad ranges: A small number of colleges offer ranges of need-based grants, rather than a specific level of grant support. I certainly understand this from an enrollment management perspective (you don’t want to promise something you can’t deliver), but the practice makes the NPCs almost useless, given the range offered can vary from $2,000 to $8,000.

The results are damn confusing: NPCs are anything but clear in presentation and results. In fact, they are terribly confusing even for someone who knows his way around this stuff. One college’s results were so crazy that we sent an anonymous email seeking clarification. The response we received directed us to yet a different calculator housed on the business office’s website. A further complication is that there is no easy way to find NPCs on most college websites—some are hidden deep within the structure and others are right up front. We ended up Googling Net Price Calculator + (college name) to make it easy. I hope that’s what families are doing.

If you’ve made it this far, you may want to know what we found out about Augustana and whether there are any general tends to which I can point?

With the help of the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, and in an effort to try to compare apples to apples, rather than apples to basketballs, we “standardized” the results to determine net cost by looking at direct cost minus estimated grant aid and the Federal Stafford Loan. We left out PLUS, Work Study in order to try to assess how we stack up. Here’s what we found.


In short, here’s what was discovered:



Direct Cost

Student 1

Net Price

Student 2

Net Price

Student 3

Net Price

Student 4

Net Price















19, 338




Augie Difference from Median







Of the 16 schools we considered, Augustana’s direct cost is $1,692 above the mean and $1,777

above the median. However, after considering the scholarships and grants and $5,500 in

Stafford loans, Augustana is below both the mean and the median for each of the four students. 

Augie is more than $5,000 less than five other schools on the list for each student profile. 

The move from direct cost to net price is about a $3,500 jump for Augie.



Now I don’t know exactly what this means. My initial thought was; hey, that looks pretty good for us. I mean, our price is more than the mean, but our cost is less. And, in most cases, if we less expensive or perceived as a better value, I am perfectly comfortable making the case for the cost differential. However, I suspect the results are more nuanced.

Are we offering too much financial aid? Are we a better value? Do we make a more substantial investment in students?

I need to look deeper at all of these questions, but in the meantime, if you want to know how Augustana stacks up against these colleges for our archetype students, you will find the results below.



Student 1 – 75k CO

Student 1

Difference from Augie

Student 1

















Gustavus Adolphus












































U of I






Student 2 – 120k IL

Student 2

Difference from Augie Student 2

















Gustavus Adolphus












































U of I






Student 3 – 200k IL

Student 3

Difference from Augie Student 3

















Gustavus Adolphus












































U of I






Student 4  – 45k IL

Student 4

Difference from Augie Student 4

















Gustavus Adolphus












































U of I






*Archetype student unlikely to be admitted. This may be the case for other colleges in the comparison group, too.

#An average of the grant range provided by the NPC was used to come up with a grant value.

I am not sure that any of the results are earth-shattering, but they are interesting.

What do you think about all of this? Are you aware of other efforts to compare NPCs results?

If you are an enrollment professional, you might try this out on your own to see what a family might see at your institution and at your competition.

W. Kent Barnds a.k.a. @bowtieadmission

New blog post: Is social media is the new cocktail party for parents engaged in the college search? #emchat #admissions #highered

January 3, 2014

At Augustana College we use a number of tools to track what people are saying, writing and blogging about the college. It’s helpful to know what’s out there, to track trends and celebrate good news or prepare for bad news. These tools track all sorts of things, and an alert I received today really got me thinking.

Yesterday one of the alert services provided a link to a parent’s Facebook page on which Augustana was included. The parent had listed several other colleges and universities, too. The post, which I will paraphrase, includes a list of colleges this parent’s student is considering. Plus the post includes the academic and co-curricular interests of the student.

It’s a fascinating list of colleges—ranging from the super-selective to the local public university. The list includes 20 colleges in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky and Wisconsin. Colleges range in size from 800 to 5,000.

What is most interesting to me about the post, though, is that the parent asks for advice on how to decide, compare and even negotiate with colleges.

Presumably, this parent is asking for advice from people who he trusts to be informed and have the best interest of his student in mind. However, the replies are what you might expect – both biased and anecdotally based.

I am very tempted to follow the parent, so I could continue to monitor the post. I am curious to see if anyone makes a good case for Augie among those who post.

I guess this really shouldn’t surprise me at all, considering how people use social media. But, this particular post may suggest a new way to gather information about colleges and the college search.

It seems to me that discussions on comparing and negotiating with colleges were once reserved for the cocktail party circuit. These questions were reserved for close friends or those who one knew had recently navigated the process. These questions were held in reserve—somewhat like one’s voting preferences. However, this post suggests otherwise.

While I know plenty of people who have queried their Facebook friends for dating, dining, vacation and voting advice, what do you think? Are you ready to ask for advice via Facebook about important issues, like your student’s college choice?

Please complete the poll below:

Let me know what you think? Is social media the new cocktail party?

W. Kent Barnds aka @bowtieadmission

Preparing for a career in college admissions: You should umpire Little League games. #admissions #emchat

November 21, 2013

Last Friday I received the first of call of the year from a parent questioning why we’d denied her son admission.  It was a respectful call and the questions were serious and genuine. I sensed advocacy and curiosity on the other end of the line.  The call ended in the same way these calls always end, with an invitation to be proven wrong by the student attending another college and transferring.

It was the first of many more to come, I suspect. 

These calls are an important part of the cycle and I appreciate the parents who call (even those who don’t do their homework before calling). These parents are advocates for their kids and are involved, which is a good thing.

These calls are never joy-filled, even after more than 20 years, but they’ve never really troubled me.  In fact, I believe my job as a Little League umpire prepared me for my job today and equipped me to handle even the most unreasonable passionate parents.

I grew up in Gering, Nebraska, which is a small town in Western Nebraska. As a teenager I had a number of jobs including a morning paper route, mowing lawns, painting houses and serving as a Little League umpire. It was may dad, an Episcopal priest who knows nothing at all about sports and probably couldn’t tell you the difference between a ball and a strike, who suggested I try umpiring. I don’t know if his encouragement was to make sure I earned some money—Lord knows it was not “easy money”—or if he genuinely wanted me to learn a little bit about life. Whatever the rationale, I am grateful for the lessons learned as an umpire. Those lessons, described below, have been important to my work as an admissions officer.

A few lessons from behind the plate (and the catcher) and how they relate to college admissions

Trust your gut—As an umpire, you have to trust your gut. If it looked like a ball, you have to call it a ball, AND it probably was. You can’t second-guess. An umpire has to make the call and has to trust his or her experience. This is the same for an admissions officer. Our work is about good judgment, not certainty. Students with great application and records can bomb in college, just as those with modest backgrounds can go on to excel. As admission officers, it is our job to trust our gut when making a decision.

Listen respectfully—As an umpire, I got yelled at A LOT. Yelling is what parents do—particularly parents living vicariously through their 6 or 7 year old! The worst thing an umpire can do is get emotional, yell back, raise his or her voice or let the chatter become an irritant. The best umpires are those who keep their eyes on the game and ignore the yelling. When a coach challenges a call, the umpire must listen respectfully and allow the coach to speak (when doing so it’s important to be open to the idea that a mistake was made, too). This is the same thing an admissions officer must do when working with a disgruntled parent or student. respectfully is critical. Many times the yelling and complaining is simply part of the process—a catharsis or mourning. A good admissions officer, just like a good umpire, will take it and take respectfully.

Perspective is dependent upon proximity—Balls and strikes look different depending upon perspective and proximity. What looks like a strike to some often looks really different from behind home plate, which is why the umpire has the best position to call the game. A parent’s perspective when it comes to their student’s application to college is the same as fan calling balls and strikes from the stands—they are not positioned to best see the big picture and all they can see is what’s right in front of them; their kid and their kid’s desires and dreams.  As an admissions officer, just like an umpire, you have the best perspective because of your proximity.

Someone has to make the call—In college I was an intramural referee (a topic for another blog post) and we had an honor code, which could be invoked if a referee could not make a call. As you can imagine, when participants were left to make a call it didn’t go so; everyone one thought they had the best position and their call was the right call. This is exactly why an impartial umpire is so important. An umpire needs to see the big picture and have the long view AND he or she needs to make the call, rather than rely on someone else to do. I recall fondly my days as a catcher in Babe Ruth baseball; I frequently tried to make the call on behalf of the umpire. I’d not so subtly suggest a ball was a strike, move my glove into the strike zone and make snarky comments when the ump “missed the call.” A good umpire makes the call because he or she has to. A good admission officer does the same thing. They are there to make the call—even the difficult ones. They have to exercise good judgment, but they must make the call.

While all of the aforementioned qualities were developed as an umpire and honed as an admissions officer, I think the most important lesson I learned as an umpire was to be fair. Fairness is essential to both jobs. If one is confident that decisions are arrived at fairly it’s easy to defend and explain any decision. This is the essence of the work of admissions; to be fair.

What job prepared you for work in college admissions?

W. Kent Barnds a.k.a. @bowtieadmission






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