3 Videos: Critical Skills for Admissions Officers

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Training of new admissions counselors is often, out of necessity, much too hurried and perfunctory. The training that new counselors receive has historically been focused on the everyday duties of the job (travel, reading and processing applications, CRM systems, etc.), accompanied by lots of “just in time” training where other key competencies are concerned.

But in today’s intensely competitive environment, it is no longer sufficient to let your admissions counselors go out and begin recruiting for you without having adequate training on key, all-important soft skills.

Recently, W. Kent Barnds, Augustana College’s vice president of enrollment, communications, and planning, presented a three-part webinar series on providing critical training for admissions counselors. We wanted to share some of his key thoughts in a quick series of ninety-second complimentary videos, as well; taken together, these three videos offer a different framework for thinking about the critical skill set needed for admissions counselors in the twenty-first century.

You can watch the short videos or read their transcripts below (we recommend sharing them with your admissions team), and you can get a full recording of W. Kent Barnds’ online trainings here.

1. Communicating Value in the Admissions Process


“Communicating value to students, parents, and guardians is one of the msot important things admissions counselors need to do. Unfortunately, most admissions counselors don’t have any experience in doing this, in having a conversation about the value of the student experience, about financial aid and affordability, about post-graduation outcomes. They need to be trained. They need to be counseled. They need to be coached on how to talk about value.

“But in college admissions, we always need to talk about value first and affordability later. This first of three sessions on training admissions counselors will focus on communicating value to your audience.

“Why is talking about value so important for new admissions counselors to be able to do? The edge that a counselor will have if they are able to communicate value effectively is that they will be able to engage their audience and make the case for the institution they represent. They will be able to go beyond the first-person singular and will personalize it for each student. If they know what those value characteristics are and can sell the institution, that’s what will make them a stand-out admissions counselor.”

2. Effective Counseling Skills


“Too many people have the impression that college admissions is about sales, sales, sales: Put the old school tie on, go out, represent the institution, and make the sale. Yet ours is a profession of counseling. We work with students during a very important transition in their lives, from high school to college, and an admissions counselor needs to understand their responsibility as a counselor. What is their responsibility within our larger profession of college admissions?

  • Are they familiar with the statement of principles and good practices?
  • Do they understand how important assessing and determining fit is?
  • Do they understand their role as a counselor not only to get a student to choose a college, but ultimately to go on and graduate?

Those counselors who don’t have these skills, first of all, won’t last very long in admissions–but second, they won’t be very effective. And that’s a significant risk for any college admissions office.”

3. Strategies for Building Connection with Key Admissions Stakeholders


“Admissions counselors are the face of the institution. They represent the college, and they interface with far more stakeholders than just prospective students. Whether it’s parents, whether it’s school counselors, whether it’s community college advisors, whether it’s coaches, whether it’s faculty, the role of the admissions counselor is incredibly important in communicating with a variety of diverse stakeholders.

Now, frequently we think, just hire someone who is really good at this: the bubbly tour guide, the person who has interned in the admissions office. But communicating with stakeholders and maintaining effective communication with stakeholders is an art. It is something that has to be learned over time. And during this particular session, we’ll talk about communication techniques, ways to engage the audience, whether it is prospective students, whether it is a school counselor, or whether it is your colleagues while an admissions counselor is out traveling. Maintaining those connections and ensuring effective communication with all stakeholders is one of the primary responsibilities of an admissions counselor.”

Get the Recorded Trainings from W. Kent Barnds

You can get the full trainings here — each is 45 minutes and packed with practical information from start to finish; the series is designed for busy admissions officers, and each session is accompanied by a packet of practical resources and hands-on activities to help you and your colleagues apply what you are learning. And these trainings can be added to your library for help in onboarding new members of your admissions team later.

Want to read more from W. Kent Barnds? You can check out some of his other articles here: