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What Does an Admissions Counselor Do?

For many prospective students, deciding which college or university to attend is an incredibly stressful decision. The type of institution and the major they select largely determines the trajectory of their career. Admissions counselors support students as they navigate this difficult process. In this article we’ll explore:

  • What are admissions counselors?
  • What do admissions counselors do?
  • How to become an admissions counselor

What Is an Admissions Counselor?

Admissions counselors work in higher education institutions recruiting potential students and guiding them through the admissions process. They serve an incredibly important function in colleges and universities, guiding prospective students through the admissions funnel and making the application process seamless.

Roles and Responsibilities

Admissions counselors serve a wide variety of functions, and their specific duties may vary depending on the institution. Some of the most common include:

  • Territory management: Most institutions divide the country into territories and assign an admissions counselor to one or more. Admissions counselors then recruit students in their territory, in-person by traveling to high schools and college fairs to meet prospective students and virtually by conducting online information sessions and interviews.
  • Interviewing prospective students: Admissions counselors interview students to determine whether they're the right fit for an institution depending on their career goals, educational goals, and finances. Depending on each institution’s policies this is either a requirement for admission or optional for a prospective student.
  • Guiding students through the application process: A big part of admissions is building relationships with prospective students and acting as a resource during the application process. This includes ensuring they submit all materials by the application deadline, collaborating with high school counselors and answering any questions a family has.
  • Application review: Admissions counselors are tasked with reviewing college applications and making decision recommendations. This includes reviewing letters of recommendation, application essays, and transcripts.
  • Hosting events: Admissions counselors are often responsible for planning and hosting admissions events, such as webinars, presentations, campus tours, and more.
  • Ancillary responsibilities: Supporting the institutions overall goals is a key responsibility of admissions counselors. Depending on the institution, a counselor may assist with scholarship management, liaison roles, collaborate with the alumni network, review honors applicants, and more.

Common Challenges

A position as an admissions counselor isn't without its challenges. The position often requires you to work nights and weekends. It can also be difficult to work in a position where success is dependent on how many prospective students convert to matriculated attendees. The payoff, however, is being a part of students’ success, building relationships, and continuing to develop your higher education skills.

Average Salary

According to data from EMSI Burning Glass, admissions counselors earn a median salary of around $44k per year. This figure varies depending on your background, geographic location, education, and the institution. However, the outlook for admissions counselors is promising, with wage trends increasing at a rate of approximately 9.2 percent per year.

How to Become an Admissions Counselor

Do you have a passion for higher ed? A position as an admissions counselor is an excellent starting point, and can lead to a fulfilling career in the higher ed space.

Educational Requirements

Since admissions counselors recruit students deciding where to go to school, the vast majority are required to have an undergraduate degree. Approximately 92 percent of admissions counselors hold at least a bachelor's degree.

Top Skills Required

Interpersonal skills are incredibly important for admissions counselors, since much of their job is interacting with prospective students and their parents. Occasionally, this requires speaking with frustrated parents, or struggling students. Therefore, strong communication skills are a must.

Here are the top 10 most common skills listed in an admissions counselor job posting:

  1. Communications
  2. Valid driver's license
  3. Presentations
  4. Customer service
  5. Interpersonal communications
  6. Student recruitment
  7. Customer relationship management
  8. Microsoft Office
  9. Marketing
  10. Planning

If you're considering becoming an admissions counselor, try to obtain these skills so you're able to highlight them on your resume, demonstrating your potential to future employers.

Background Experience

A college admissions counselor is often an entry-level role, but sometimes requires experience in higher ed. Many applicants of admissions counselor positions transition directly from student worker roles. This includes tour guides, receptionists, student ambassadors, and more. The majority of job postings for admissions counselors don’t have experience requirements, though, and most that do require three years or less. So if you don’t have any experience working in higher ed, you’re in luck.

What to Look For in an Admissions Counselor Job

It’s important to connect with any institution you could potentially work for. Colleges are businesses, and admissions counselors are the sales team, sometimes tasked with recruiting as many prospects as possible, regardless of the student. This can lead to students making the wrong choice for their professional goals. It's important to believe in your school's value, so be sure to research an institution’s mission, core values, and strategic plan in advance of applying for a position.

When interviewing for positions, ask how the department determines what students are a good fit for the institution, what enrollment goals are set per counselor, and how the department measures success. Consider whether their answers align with your personal beliefs.

You can find college admission counselor jobs on job boards such as HigherEdJobs, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) career center, and Inside Higher Ed Careers.

Admissions Counselor Career Path

Higher ed is a field that offers a wide range of jobs, and an admissions counselor position is an excellent stepping stone to more opportunities. If you're wondering where a career in admissions can lead, here are some of the common job titles in college admissions that admissions counselor can transition to:

  • Assistant Director of Admissions: As the name implies, assistant directors of admissions assist an institution's director of admissions. They complete many of the same tasks as admissions counselors, while also taking on project management responsibilities. Unlike associate directors of admissions, they don't typically oversee admissions staff.
  • Associate Director of Admissions: Associate directors of admissions assist in the planning and execution of recruitment strategies. They're also responsible for training and supervising the admissions staff.
  • Director of Admissions: Directors of admissions oversee the admissions staff. They also play a role in defining an institution’s admissions policies and processes, including deciding which applicants meet the institution’s admissions requirements, finalizing admissions decisions, and implementing recruitment strategy.
  • Enrollment Manager/Operations Specialist: Enrollment managers and operations specialists work to align admissions operations with the institution's overall enrollment strategy. They also play an important role in guiding students through the admissions funnel.
  • Enrollment Marketing Manager: Enrollment marketing managers develop and execute marketing campaigns to increase awareness and generate inquiries/applicants for their college's programs. They work closely with the admissions team to ensure that recruitment efforts align with the school's marketing strategy.

While many of these positions require advanced education depending on the school, many institutions offer employees discounted rates on their master's programs. This makes an advanced degree more affordable, which are typically required for higher paying positions.

Stand Out From the Competition

If you're considering a job as an admissions counselor, or any role in higher ed, try to stand out from the competition by developing your skills and knowledge of the higher ed landscape. Stay updated on the latest trends impacting higher ed, and continuously educate yourself about college enrollment.

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