A Chi Omega sister of mine saw the article in the Eluesis and sent me an interview! She works as a College Admissions Officer! Thanks so much!!!
Q: What is the title of your profession?
A: I am a college admissions officer.
Q: What do you do?
A: Admissions officers are charged with finding students for the colleges where they work. It is very cyclical work, based on an academic year calendar. In September and October, admissions officers travel to different high schools to meet with students, parents, guidance counselors, and alumni, talking about the college they represent. This is to let students know if it would be a good place for them to go, and for counselors to have an idea where to suggest for their students. From November to February, admissions officers are reading applications from students, making notes, and evaluating whether they would succeed at the school. This is different, depending on the schools where you work; in some places, they are mostly looking at your high school grades or test scores; other colleges require teacher recommendations, essays, and lists of activities the student has participated in. In February and March, admissions officers meet in teams or committees to decide which students to admit. In April, it’s time to talk and email with admitted students to help them decide whether to attend your school. And also in April: high school juniors start looking at colleges, starting the summer work of meeting and speaking with members of the next class that will be applying.
Q: Have you always worked in this field?
A: For the most part, yes. (See below.)
Q: If no, what was your prior profession and what made you change your profession?
A: I took another job right out of college that was more computer-based and realized that personally, I need a job that has me out talking with people more than just on the computer.
Q: Why did you choose this profession?
A: I was not enjoying my computer job, and I read a book called “What Color Is Your Parachute?” On page 17, it said, “List all your favorite things you’ve ever done. Go on; we’ll wait until you are done.” And on page 18, it said, “Someone, somewhere, is paid to do every single one of the things you just listed. Go be one of them.” One of the things I had written down was my volunteer work with the admissions office at my college, and I realized: that would be a great place for me to start over!
Q: How would you define your profession?
A: I always like to say it’s a great job for nosy people, because you get to read about so many other people’s lives. Reading applications really felt like meeting 25 new people every day but without having to keep up my part of the conversation directly! My favorite part, though, is helping young adults on the verge of a big decision about the next part of their life. There are lots of good decisions to make; the key is helping them make it, and it was always interesting to have a role in that decision.
Q: Did you go to college or a trade school for this profession?
A: Not exactly. Most college admissions officers have been to college, because it is hard to speak about a college experience if you have not had one yourself! But at the undergraduate level, there is not anywhere that I know of to study admissions.
Q: How long did you go to school? Where? What was your degree in?
A: I went to school at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA. I went for four years and received a Bachelor’s degree (BA) with a psychology major
Q: Do you use your degree in your job? In what way?
A: I do, but not how people think! I don’t really psychoanalyze the applicants, but having an understanding of how adolescents think is really useful when working with them. Also, I had a much better understanding of how to interpret testing results, like the SAT and ACT, than colleagues without any exposure to theories of test creation and calibration.
Q: Can your degree be used as a basis for any other professions? What types?
A: Yes, many. Lots of admissions officers go on to other positions in colleges and universities, as advisors or administrators who run other programs. Some go on to be guidance counselors (especially at private schools) or independent college counselors (people families hire to help their children as they apply to college). Others leave admissions but continue in recruitment and evaluation professions, such as recruiting, human resources, or “headhunting” firms. And others go in to admissions for a few years and then go on to another career entirely after graduate school.
Q: Does your job require continued education? What type? How much?
A: That is a very regional question in the United States. In general, to rise to the top and become a dean or director of admission, at least a Master’s degree is suggested. However, many people make a career in admissions who don’t have the goal of the very top spot with a BA alone. In some parts of the country, a Master’s is almost necessary for any position above entry level, however. (Virginia, in particular, tends to expect higher degrees within a few years of undergraduate. I’m not sure why.)
Q: Does your job require a certification or board testing?
Q: What is a day in the life of your job? Does it change day to day? Do you work with the public?
A: The changes aren’t day to day, but month to month. And working with the public changes month to month too! In summer, a typical day is in the office, planning fall travel, calling or emailing colleagues at high schools, and greeting visitors to campus and speaking with them individually or in large group information sessions. In fall, a typical day is spent visiting four to five high schools in a day, then hosting a program at night for families to attend to learn about the school and ask questions. (During my time, I did this in 35 different states, so there are lots of planes, trains, and automobiles involved too!) In winter, my days are a little more lonely, as I hunker down to read read read. And in spring, I spend more than 12 hours a day with my colleagues as we decide the class, so it’s not exactly “public” but it’s less isolated than reading season. Come April, the public part of the job begins again.
Q: What do you think makes a person successful in this profession?
A: Many kinds of people can be successful in admissions. Certain things make it a better fit: you should enjoy meeting other people, particularly young adults; you should enjoy knowing an immense amount of information about a college or university; being a fast reader helps; and being able to judge how well an application fits the needs and goals your college has set.
Q: Does your profession require travel? How much?
A: Typically, yes, lots. Most admissions officers travel at least four weeks and up to eleven weeks in the fall, and some—ranging from a city or two to four weeks—in the spring. This can be a week or more at a time in one place, or can be a different city every day. But, again, it depends on the school. Some schools have a more regional focus and don’t require much travel at all.
Q: What is the typical schedule/hours?
A: The job descriptions will list normal working hours (9-5 or something close) “and evenings and weekends as required.” During some weeks, it’s required every weekend and evening. Others are much lighter. For example, if you are recruiting in one city for a week or more, you will probably be finished most of your official work day by 3pm as that is when most high schools let out. Of course there is paperwork and follow-up to be done, but that can be more at your leisure. But, you are also out of town, so it is still “company time” in some ways. On the other hand, during reading and committee, there is a huge amount of work and a short amount of time to do it, so typically I would work 12-16 hour days in winter.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A: I love meeting the students, and finding the ones who would change and be changed by my school.
Q: What do you dislike about your job?
A: I worked at some very selective universities and hated saying “no” to many—most—of the very qualified candidates who applied. Rejecting the application of a student I have grown fond of never gets easier.
Q: What advice would you give to a child/student that is considering this profession?
A: If you enjoy travel, love teenagers, have the capacity to do a tremendous amount of work alone but are also very social—this could be a great field for you.
Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you choose the same profession? If no, why not?
A: I’m not sure how to answer that. I do not regret an instant of my career. I miss it desperately. However, with our family circumstances, I cannot figure out a way to be in admissions and raise children (we don’t have the money for an au pair or nanny, and we don’t have family that can be there with our young children while I would travel and my husband works). So—I’m so glad to have had so many years in a profession I loved. But I am looking—hard—for a way back in that will still give me some balance with my family.
Q: Are you having fun?
A: Yes. Every day, I did something I loved. And the other people who go in to admissions tend to be a bright, thoughtful, fun, interesting group!
A: Do you receive a pension or have a company sponsored 401k?
A: Colleges and universities in general offer 503(b) plans instead of 401k plans, so there are often retirement monies but they are matching plans rather than pensions nowadays.