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Monday Musings (on Tuesday) from WKB #emchat #admissions #highered



Colleagues and friends,

I hope you find something useful in this addition of Monday Musings, which I am sending out on a Tuesday!

Last week kicked off application review for the class that will enroll in the fall of 2018 and the admission staff and I’ve been working diligently to ensure that all of our Early Decision applicants receive a timely decision. In addition, we are working to make sure we can begin to notify Early Action applicants very soon after we notify ED applicants.

For those of you who don’t know about my involvement in the application review process, I review every application to make a final admissions decision. My review follows preliminary review by an admissions counselor. Counselors recommend a decision that I am asked to affirm or not. Counselors make recommendations about admission status and propose a merit-based scholarship when relevant. Reviewing a student’s application is a responsibility I love and it keeps me in close touch with what’s happening in our pool, the feel of each developing class and it allows for some standardization and consistency of the final decisions we make. But, this year is a little different.

This year the Office of Admissions has switched to reviewing applications entirely online. I am slowly getting used to the absence of paper and my beloved “green sheet,” which provided a summary of information for each applicants. The green sheet has been replaced with an online form that I complete. The online form still allows me leave “love notes” and instructions for follow up on applicants, but man, it’s different. No more red pen! No more sticky notesI No more hand-written illegible directions!

To use an old reference, someone definitely “moved my cheese.”

But, I want to assure everyone that I am a convert! I love online review and can steal away a moment almost anytime and anywhere to review applications. I don’t miss lugging applications to and from the office and setting up on the dining room table at home.

For those of you who are gearing up to review or already in the think of it, best of luck.


An thought article I can’t get out of my mind

 Last week in Politico there was an excellent article about higher education. The article, “In Trump country a university confronts its detractors” is about the University of Michigan, but it’s really an article about all institutions of higher education. If you’ve not taken the time to read this article yet, you must make time do so. This is an article that illustrates the trade-offs facing colleges and universities—public and private-across this country.

I posted the article to my Facebook page with the following set up: “A very tangled tale that touches on politics, higher education, class, socioeconomics, good intentions, necessity and perceptions.”


While reading the article was reminded of a take on Bob Zemsky’s advice to colleges. Once upon a time Zemsky purportedly said that colleges must be “mission-driven and market-smart.” It’s also said that he’s evolved his thinking to say that college’s need to be “market-smart and mission-driven.” But, now, he’s says, “no market, no mission.”


As you think about the trade-offs that the University Michigan faced and faces, it’s worth thinking about those comments attributed to Zemsky.

How does a college pursue excellence in an environment where resources are shrinking?

If state appropriations are declining, where does a college look for revenue to fulfill its mission?

What are the markers of excellence to be perceived as the state’s “flagship” university?

It seems to me that too many want higher education to do far more than it reasonable can, given the resources available.

I could not help but think of my father, who often discussed conversations he witnessed as congregations developed job profiles for clergy. It seemed as though every church wanted the same thing—someone who is good with the youth of the church and the elderly; someone who is always available in the church office and is always visiting parishioners at home and in the hospital; someone who is an excellent administrator and a thoughtful scholar; someone who can fundraise and someone who won’t talk about money all of the time; someone who is an excellent preacher and someone who will offer brief sermons.

Sounds a bit like what we expect from higher ed today. We want to be accessible and affordably and we want more full paying students; we want to attract the highest achieving students and want to provide first-gen students with a chance to improve themselves.

What do you think of this article? What do you think the University of Michigan should do to reassure those who now believe its inaccessible and too elite?

 Two things I think are worth reading (if you haven’t already done so)

What shoppers really want from personalized marketing—McKinsey & Company’s recent newsletter included this amazing article about what customers want from personalized marketing. This article is relevant to those of us in admissions and advancement (and we could replace the word shoppers with donors and prospective students) and we all need to take some time to soak this in. The recommendations are as follow:

  1. Give me relevant recommendation and I wouldn’t have thought of myself.
  2. Talk to me when I’ve in shopping mode.
  3. Remind me of things I want to know by might not be keeping track of.
  4. Know me no matter where I interact with you.
  5. Share the value in a way that’s meaningful to me.

Think about the work you do and think about your prospective students and donors.

How can you apply this? How can you use this to framework to more effectively connect? How can you apply these principles to achieve better results? Where do we need to improve technology or practices to more effectively personalize our outreach to prospective students, alumni, donors and prospective donors? What data do we need? Where should we store it? And, how do we break out of the one-size-fits-all model for communication we typically use when we are on send?

Seven ways to make student mentoring more valuable—EAB does a nice job of summarizing suggestions about making mentoring meaningful. While this piece is focused on students, the advice seems relevant to all. Here’s what they say:

  1. Define Mentorship
  2. Train Mentors
  3. Support Mentors
  4. Show the Value of Mentorships
  5. Require Excellence
  6. Reward Excellence
  7. Provide Feedback

I really like this and its formality. Sadly, I think mentoring is too frequently left to chance for the mentor and those to be mentored, which results in a poor experience for both. This framework and advice seems to me to add significant value.

Something for you (and me) to think about

Recently, I ran across a notebook that I used when I attended Harvard’s Institute for Education Management in the summer of 2003. It was very interesting to look through my notes on various case studies and sessions. I was particularly struck by some notes I jotted down during a guest lecture by Lawrence Backow, who was president of Tufts at the time.

Dr. Backow discussed the theme of “going from a title to leadership” and he offered the following advice as a formula for leaders to follow: 1. Have an agenda; 2. Communicate your agenda; and, 3. Be serious about your agenda.

Pretty simple advice, but very compelling.

What do you think about Dr. Backow’s advice?

P.S. If you know of someone who you think I should add to my distribution list, please let me know and I will gladly add them to the list. I try to get one of these out every Monday. And, you can read past issues of my musings at my blog @bowtieadmission


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