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Summer visit days and a glimpse of the Class of 2016 and all that could go wrong

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This week at Augustana College we are hosting a week of campus visit days. Each day of the week features different academic programs and disciplines and provides our visitors with an idea of what Augustana has to offer them should they choose to apply and enroll. For me, summer visit days are an eye-opener reinforcing the reality that the Class of 2015 is behind us and the work on next year’s group must begin in earnest.

It is this time of year that I begin to wonder what the next recruitment cycle will bring for Augustana and for the admissions profession as a whole? I find myself asking many questions.  These are a few questions on my mind on hump-day of a week of campus visits?

How long will prospects continue to buy in to our philosophy that it takes more than one campus visit to get to know a college? Will their patience last through an open house, followed by and interview and an overnight visit? Will family finances continue to support robust visitation before a student applies?

Will important sources of financial assistance be available for needy families? Will the State of Illinois change the deadline for the MAP Grant once again and hurt those who need it most? Will Pell be available to those who need it? Will we continue to support students with our own resources to the level necessary to enable them to complete their degree at Augustana?

Are our student search strategies and direct mail campaigns still relevant? Is there a better way to introduce Augustana to student who remain unfamiliar? Can we continue to justify the expense associated with recruitment?

Will one of our competitors introduce some new social-networking tool that makes it even harder to make our case? Will we have to respond to every social-networking “good idea” suggested by an alum, faculty member, trustee or president?

Will the media’s unhealthy attention to price, cost and their continued emphasis on college “not being worth it” take hold? So far, higher education has withstood the attention and many colleges are responding and doing a more effective job of discussing the value of their degree; can we get better at describing our values and value and keep the media’s attacks at bay?

Will our on-campus partners have the time to balance their work with our current students with the increased neediness of prospective students? I continue to wonder how much more can we ask of people and continue to deliver upon our mission? Can people do more? Will they do more? Can we make a stronger case for them to do more?

Will prospects maintain the focus and discipline necessary to conduct and conclude and effective college search? Will they follow the advice we offer? Will they work with their college counselors to do a realistic search? Will they sell themselves short because of misperceptions they receive in the lunchroom at their high school, or on Rate My Professor.com or because of the results they get from using the almighty Net Price Calculator?

These are among the things I think about as I see those fresh faces in tour groups, in the lunchroom and in the information sessions this week.

Despite the questions I have, this is a time when I feel a new burst of energy and enthusiasm for what we as admission professional do. Bring on the Class of 2016.

Kent Barnds

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