What Makes a Successful Training Program for College Admissions Professionals?

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What Makes a Successful Training Program for College Admissions Professionals?

According to a recent Pew Research study, there were 10.2 million college applicants in 2017. Of those 10 million applicants, all but the most competitive private colleges admitted at least 66% of those who applied. This is especially interesting given the general trend in college recruitment since 2002 has been an overall decrease in the number of yearly admissions countrywide. Year by year admission rates have declined, yet the sheer volume of applicants has more than doubled over a 15-year time period. As college recruitment professionals, how do we reconcile those two facts?

The answer is simpler than it may appear. With the advent of resources like the Common Application, potential students are applying to more colleges at a greater scale. The problem is also compounded by the emerging prevalence of online programs, taking face-to-face students out of the mix. What does that mean in real terms? There is a huge national pool of potential admissions each year, and the only difference between a student choosing your university over another is the caliber of the admissions professionals representing the institution. That’s why training programs geared toward college recruitment professionals are essential in order to develop your team’s sales abilities, social skills, and knowledge.

The aim of this paper is threefold:

  • To identify the core skills that admissions professionals need in order to succeed

  • To provide a training path to develop those skills

  • To discuss the four pillars that support a great admissions training program

What Skills are Necessary to be a College Admissions Professional?

In order to be an effective admissions counselor there are a number of skills, qualities, and competencies that a professional must possess. Among them are a number of advanced communications skills. An admissions counselor must excel at both in person and over the phone interactions with potential students. Moreover, they need to have skill in communicating the value of their institution. Value, rather than cost and dollar amounts, is what drives a student to choose that institution over others they’ve applied to.

In order to communicate value, a college admissions counselor must learn to act in an advisory role. That means listening sincerely to the prospective student in order to uncover their concerns and providing them with valuable resources to address those needs. It also involves a high degree of salesmanship and the ability to overcome student objections and secure their commitment.

An admissions counselor is also required to have an outgoing, social nature. From giving campus tours to generating new leads via social media, high school visits, or college recruitment days, the admissions professional must be able to capture and hold students’ attention through their conciliatory role. Both written and spoken communication play a quintessential role in the recruitment process. The 2019 NACAC State of Admissions report identified that 88.4% of polled recruitment professionals considered email the most important recruitment strategy, while 85.1% considered campus tours to have the most impact.

The key competency at the core of all recruitment professionals’ skill sets is relationship building. Admissions counselors must build a relationship with potential students from start to finish, enticing them to attend the school, assisting them with the application and enrollment process, and following up with them as they transition to campus life. That’s why it is essential to reinforce these core skills with a solid training program.

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Methodology for Teaching the Core Competencies

While certain elements of personality are inborn traits, communication skills and relationship building can be taught. In order to properly instill those skills in your admissions staff, your training program must be built around a wide array of educational styles.

First, your program must be built on education through meaningful content. You must provide a robust range of resources, training materials, and industry best practices for your employees to digest. Numerous online resources can be obtained from the National Association for College Admission Counseling to aid you in building a training program.

Secondly, you must demonstrate your content in a real life training environment. That means involving in-person professionals to speak on their experiences as well as incorporating recorded audio and video media into training presentations.

The next delivery method involves giving trainees hands-on experience in a controlled environment It is essential to provide numerous opportunities for practice through guided role-play scenarios. Guided role-plays provide a segue to real-world, experiential learning, and a safe entry point for applying these skills to their actual career.

The final component of our methodology is enabling your trainees by giving them the tools necessary to implement core competencies into their daily practice as well as providing ongoing support and continual learning opportunities to promote positive employee development.

The Four Pillars of a Training Program

The competencies and their delivery methods represent the minutiae of a well-developed program. The four pillars are the larger structural foundations upon which the program should be built.

Pillar 1: Content Variety

Your training format should contain a mix of content types. Every individual learns information differently. Some people are visual learners; others require experiential, hands-on training. Your program must include a wide variety of content from written materials, to audio and video supplements, and real-world examples. Incorporating a working professional as a guest speaker can give your program a high return on investment by generating increased student engagement through positive modeling.

Pillar 2: Pace

Your training program must be self-paced.If you remember back to the core competencies required of every admissions professional, they are all communications-based skills with heavy emphasis on salesmanship and counseling. It takes time to develop the social confidence required to be a proficient communicator. Structure your training around a self-paced curriculum rather than a day-by-day syllabus. Your counselors must be adaptable in their professional roles; model that through an adaptable training program.

Pillar 3: Social Interaction 

Your program must encourage peer-to-peer interaction. Training serves as a laboratory in which your students are encouraged to experiment with their persuasive social skills, developing them in a controlled environment. Peer-to-peer social exchanges are the ideal communications practice. They help build a level of confidence in your professional staff, making the segue to a real-world setting smooth and seamless.

Pillar 4: Real-world Implementation 

Training programs don’t exist in a vacuum. Peer interaction serves to prepare admissions trainees for real-life interactions with prospective students and their parents, but the best type of education is purely experiential training. It is essential that your training program works with the end result in mind: placing your newly-trained admissions professionals in a real-world setting in order to implement their skills.

The Detail Within the Framework

What we’ve laid out here serves as the framework for a training program which incorporates the essential core competencies, educationally-based learning strategies, and industry best practices. What your institution fills that framework with will drive your recruitment campaign going forward. Engine can provide the tools you need to create the ideal training program tailored to your institution and its needs. You can register for our free training now or inquire about building a custom training program created specifically for your institution.

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