Families have many questions about the college admissions process: SAT or ACT? When should I visit colleges? How should I spend my summer? At some point, families also start wondering about the people behind the whole process. Who are these mysterious humans who make admissions decisions? I talked to my colleagues to find out how they got into the field and why they were drawn to the work.
When I worked in admissions offices, I often got the question, “Did you go to this college?” Families assume that all admissions officers are former students of the college they represent. Sometimes this is true. More than a few of my colleagues fell in love with the profession because they were tour guides, interns, or student interviewers. Some stick around beyond their four years and work for their alma mater. College Coach educator Lauren Randle “absolutely fell in love with reading the stories of applicants” as a student representative on the admissions committee, an experience that led to a full-time position at her alma mater, Georgetown. Elyse Krantz “walked backwards” into the profession after working as a tour guide at Dartmouth, but moved on to Bennington to begin her post-graduate career in admissions. Her professional focus was to pursue a “more open dialogue about the realities of selective college admissions, and how ‘fit’ is far more important than prestige.”
A common phrase you’ll hear among admissions professionals is that that they “fell into” admissions. These are people, like me, who never worked in admissions as a student. In high school, I found the process fascinating and helped my friends find colleges that matched their criteria—I should have known I would become a college counselor! As a college student, I applied to be a tour guide; I didn’t even get an interview. As a senior, I was still unaware that I could find a fulfilling career in college admissions. I am not alone. According to Sai Samboon, “I never thought I’d work in admissions. To be honest, I didn’t even know what the job entailed when I was in college.” Many admissions professionals previously held jobs in other industries like engineering, technology, and sales, but found their work unsatisfying. Others applied to admissions offices straight out of college without much of a sense of what the job entails. Often, someone in the future admission counselor’s life thought the job would be a good fit and encouraged them to learn more. Kennon Dick talked with his former college suitemate who had returned to campus during Kennon’s senior year and found his description of the job to be interesting enough to learn more.
Why are people drawn to college admissions? It is easy to imagine why someone would want to work for their beloved alma mater. It may be harder to understand why someone would want to work for a college they did not attend. We come to the job with a variety of experiences and educational backgrounds (we majored in everything from flute performance to advertising) but there is a common theme that unites us as a profession: We love to make a difference in the lives of students and families. I, like most of my colleagues, was drawn to college admissions because I enjoyed talking to students and I loved reading applications. Whether working as an admission decision maker or as a counselor helping students find their way in the process, I feel honored to be an advocate for applicants. I know everyone at College Coach feels the same.