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This Ain’t Disney: The World of Admissions

əd-ˈmi-shən noun; The Mysterious World That Controls Student’s Destinies.

Ok, really--the definition of “admission” from Webster: The act or process of accepting someone as a student at a school; the fact of being accepted as a student at a school

Not too stressful if you define it that way. No mystery or power. But what the heck is that "process"? 

In the admissions world, "process" is "enrollment management strategy". It is the act of picking and choosing your collateral so you can run a successful business.  The collateral in this case is the students who are most likely to bring back a return to the school, whether in direct tuition, or future prestige.  

According to Wiki, "A typical admission staff at a college includes a dean or vice president for admission or enrollment management, middle-level managers or assistant directors, admission officers, and administrative support staff. The chief enrollment management officer is sometimes the highest-paid position in the department, earning $121,000 on average in 2010, while admissions officers average only $35,000, according to one estimate." These admissions officers are often young aspiring grads who need an entry-level job as they move towards something else. They are also the ones who read your applications.

“Take a car dealership, for example:” states a blog from Northeastern University, “Its marketing department develops an advertising strategy to drive consumers to the showroom, where a salesperson takes over the actual function of selling a car to the customer. It’s no different in higher’s the admissions counselors’ job to use [their enrollment management] tools to travel to high schools and college fairs and follow-up on generated leads for the purpose of selling the university to students.

Putting it together, if the enrollment strategist earns over 3 times what the young admissions officer does, it is no wonder that more than half of admissions counselors say they plan to seek a new career opportunity within two or three years. In the meantime, both the admissions counselors (who have a personal insight to your academic potential and character), and the enrollment strategists (who crunch the numbers), work together as best they can to recruit the best possible class for their school.  As far as I can gather, it is kind of like car sales but kind of like “Bachelorette”, rolled into one.

These are the forces that shape your students process called "college admission".  It is all but objective.

So, what?

So, as your family launches into the college process, you will want to know all you can about the individual college’s enrollment and financial goals (and stability), admission plans (like early action and early decision) and vision for their schools. Finding a school that you love and are qualified for won’t always cut it. Remember, your future yea or nay is based on both the assessment of an admissions reader (young mother drinking coffee and balancing her laptop on her knees between soccer games scanning your activities list and essay), and the top executive who runs the university’s multi-million-dollar budget by crunching data trends. No, it isn’t random, but it isn’t exactly science either.  Or fair.

But let’s define fair, you might say. Once you start down that road, you enter the world of the child’s Disney channel. Colleges don’t try to be unfair. There are huge incentives that colleges take seriously to give our young people the best chance possible to succeed, from the privileged white male to the first gen immigrant.  The problem is not mainly discrimination, but life: the cumulative coffee spills on the laptop while in between soccer games are in play, just as well as the institutional goals.  It is our system.  It isn’t perfect. It isn’t even fair.  But it’s the one we play in. So, learn the rule-book and then take your shot.  

For help with the rule-book, or for questions about the admissions process, you can contact me through my website. Or check out all my resources at

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