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The Social Media MeltTuesday, June 7th, 2016

counselor-brianThis is the fourth and final post in a series from a college admissions counselor attempting to navigate the current admissions recruiting cycle. He is Brian Switay, assistant director of recruitment in his second year at Stevens Institute of Technology, a private research university in Hoboken, New Jersey.  His stories are intended to provide an inside look at the challenges he faces as he aspires to grow and advance in the profession.

In his first post, which you can read here, Switay talked about keeping up with the inquiries.  His second post offered tips to help other counselors successfully climb the admissions ladder.  The third installment focused on admitted student days and bringing in the best class possible.

By Brian Switay:

Ahh, summer is almost here. Time for vacations, lounging on the beach, ice cream, long walks and exploring boardwalks and amusement parks. However, the summer also brings the dreaded summer melt! With more and more students double depositing it seems as though summer melt has been increasing each and every year. So, what can you do?

I would like to use this article to encourage each of you to partake in a virtual chat room, if you will. Please join me on Twitter @brianatstevens and share with me your summer melt strategies.

Today however, I will share some ideas with you first. There has been a lot of discussion about which ideas and implementations will help deter melt from happening, which are controversial and reasons that some schools are not reaching out to students at all.

One of the “newest” forms of reducing summer melt is the almighty text-messaging avenue. Students seem to always have their phones attached to them but never pick up the phone when you call. Schools have resorted to reaching out to students through this medium. According to The Social and Behavioral Science Team through the US Government, 20-30% of college-accepted high school graduates fail to matriculate in college in the fall (https://sbst.gov/projects/reducing-summer-melt/). By sending students personalized text messages with key dates to remember, studies have shown that 68 percent of students, who were sent the text message, enrolled in the college in the fall. However, 64% of students who did not receive the text message also enrolled. So, does this medium really work?

At Stevens we have not yet put our proverbial toe into the texting world. I personally feel as though texting is still an invasive practice that if used incorrectly, can develop potentially dangerous effects. About a year or so ago my cell phone number was placed on my business cards. Students, and more frequently, parents, would call my cell phone at their convenience. So, I would be receiving calls to my personal cell phone at midnight or later. In a day where students, and some parents, believe that the response should happen immediately, text messages seem like phone calls but worse. Also, depending on your prospective students, your phone might never stop vibrating.

To combat the texting initiative for summer melt I have encouraged students (and some mothers) to instead direct message me on Twitter during the summer months. The reason for this is if I am away from my desk or on vacation, these students still feel connected and I can help answer questions even if I’m not “in the office”. It has seemed to be effective, and slowly more and more students are starting to follow me. I am interested in seeing how the Twitter direct message strategy works this summer and fall with today’s “social media savvy” generation.

One of my responsibilities at Stevens is to promote our social media handles. Our social media director and I have really been focusing on expanding our reach on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Frequently I tweet different key dates and try to keep the students engaged by using different hashtags and prompting conversation. Between the decision release of Early Decision II and Regular Decision, I launched #AskADuck. This was the catalyst that started a webinar including current students who were available to answer questions that were submitted in real time by students who had deposited at Stevens. Now, this isn’t summer melt, but I am working on holding another webinar in the middle of the summer where students can once again ask current students and recent graduates about what they enjoy(ed) and will miss about Stevens from incoming freshmen.

While this will be the first adventure into the forum moving forward, we for the most part have not been too involved in the melt process, minus the emails that are released over the summer reminding students to apply for housing and to get other paperwork submitted. I know moving forward that applications like SnapChat, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have and will continue to play a large factor into the summer melt, just as much as Wait List availability will.

What do you think? I would be interested in hearing what your method is when it comes to battling summer melt? Please tweet me at @brianatstevens to continue this conversation.

Bringing in the Best Class PossibleTuesday, March 22nd, 2016

counselor-brianThis is the third post in a series from a college counselor attempting to navigate the current admissions recruiting cycle. He is Brian Switay, a second year admissions counselor at Stevens Institute of Technology, a private research university in Hoboken, New Jersey.  His stories are intended to provide an inside look at the challenges he faces as he aspires to grow and advance in the profession.

In his first post, which you can read here, Switay talked about keeping up with the inquiries.  His second post offered tips to help other counselors successfully climb the admissions ladder. 


By Brian Switay:

Your applications have been read and decisions are being made. Take a breath and relax at least for a couple of days by watching some March Madness and catching up on your Netflix shows.

Once those decisions are sent it is a whirlwind of phone calls, emails, appeals and Admitted Student Day, or in our case, Admitted Student Weekend events. Yes, at Stevens we hold a free for all open house on both a Saturday and Sunday! So, you might be thinking to yourself, not a problem, I will show up for work, answer a few questions and go home, no big deal. Well as you probably know, Admitted Student Day is the one of the most important events that your department will hold. This All-Hands-On-Deck attitude can be the catalyst of a great recruiting class.

So, what can you do during Admitted Student Days to bring in the best class possible and ensure that all those late nights and long days weren’t for nothing? Here are some ideas:

  1. Drink Coffee, plenty of Coffee (bring gum to combat Coffee breath!) You will need to keep your energy up because answering questions with a smiling face never ends.
  2. Get involved, don’t stand around. Most of you will be assigned a certain task throughout the day, and that is fine. Take the time to mingle and interact with families. Inquire about how their day is going. Some of the most frustrating answers we hear about why students did not end up enrolling are “No one asked me questions” or “I didn’t have enough interaction with my counselor/school.”
  3. Ask what other kinds of schools they are considering or what are some of the factors that the student would like to have in their campus environment. Listen closely and then follow up by showing the student/family exactly how your school can offer what they are looking for.
  4. Know who is working the event that day, specifically what professors from what department. Many times students and families would like to meet with a certain professor or student organization/office on campus. Many times, it is Financial Aid. Try to absolve all these questions to the best of your ability, but if you are unable, know where to bring the family so you can get them the answers they are looking for. One of the worst things is looking around and not knowing who can help fix/address the problem a family is having. Preparation is paramount!
  5. Business Cards…hand them out. Once you answer a question, follow up with a business card (1 per family is sufficient). That way when they go home and digest everything that has been marinating within their brains throughout the day, they know who/where they can turn if questions arise. Seems basic, but I have attended Admitted Student Day events where this never happens.
  6. Be Excited. So obvious I know, but if you don’t look excited to be there, then why should your students be excited to be there as well?
  7. LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN. Just listen to the requests of families.  Don’t assume you know what they are thinking.

I know that most of this seems to be very basic, but you would be surprised at how quickly one might forget these little things.

After all the planning, packing and staging of swag happens, you can find yourself already exhausted. Reach deep and find the will to power through the next couple of days and land the outstanding class that you are striving to achieve. You can relax once you are home that evening (that is until your emails and phone start ringing off the hook). I wish you the best of luck bringing in your class.

Follow me on Twitter @BrianatStevens to discuss this with me further!

How You Can Successfully Climb the Admissions LadderTuesday, January 26th, 2016

counselor-brianThis is the second post in a series from a college counselor attempting to navigate the current admissions recruiting cycle. He is Brian Switay, a second year admissions counselor at Stevens Institute of Technology, a private research university in Hoboken, New Jersey.  His stories are intended to provide an inside look at the challenges he faces as he aspires to grow and advance in the profession.

In his first post, which you can read here, Switay talked about keeping up with the inquiries.


By Brian Switay:

Ascending in the admissions profession can be as easy as changing a light bulb, or as lengthy of a mission as putting up Christmas lights. When I started as an admissions counselor at Stevens Institute of Technology in 2013 I had images of immediately learning the CRM, getting to know all the important people on campus, becoming versed in all the majors available here, and much, much more! It’s definitely been an interesting journey so far.

I’ve had some admission counselors tell me they thought this job would involve hanging out on campus, watching their school’s sporting events and eating lots of free food at the cafeteria. Some counselors have even said they were told that admissions is a way to delay leaving college and getting a real job (yes, I have been told multiple times to get a “real job” from disgruntled parents). It’s not that at all. You have very little free time. There’s a “travel season” and a “reading season,” not to mention the constant running back and forth to campus every other weekend to hold open houses for prospective students. From September to March voicemail and email are constantly full and overflowing. Some days you wonder if you’ll ever be able to recover and catch up to all those messages.

The first couple of years you are a “Yes (Wo) Man, Sponge.” You agree to cover different college fairs (outside your travel territory) and information sessions, not to mention prospective student interviews for colleagues. You become used to living out of your car and hotel rooms, and Netflix is now your best friend when isolated on the road. You conquer how to file your expense reports and get your reimbursement, which by the way is not as easy as you think it is. Weekends off are rare, and it seems like you’re always telling your significant other/family what time you will be home and where you will be that evening.

You do all this and more in an attempt to learn what it takes to become a strong leader and move to the next rung on the admissions ladder.

I want to share with you ways that you can improve your stock in your office and within your university. They’ve worked for me and can do the same for you if you’re new to the admissions profession.

  1. I became a member of NACAC and my states affiliates, NJACAC and SACAC (since I cover Florida). Becoming a member has led me to countless email group chains and involvement in discussions I never could have imagined. Just by being on the server chain I have learned of a ton of different changes, thoughts, concerns and everything else in-between.
  1. I have volunteered to become a more integral part of NJACAC (or your local affiliate). I have become part of the planning committee for the Annual NJACAC Conference. Being behind the scenes gives you an amazing networking opportunity. I can happily say that I have found many new friends just from being involved in NJACAC.
  1. I asked for a mentor from NJACAC (I am sure each affiliate has this option). This is another great way to network and meet with someone who has been in your shoes before. My mentor is a great individual and we set up times to discuss changes in the landscape of admissions, where our goals are at (professionally and personally) and just to catch up and keep me on pace to achieve my goals. I would highly recommend you look into this option if your affiliate has this.
  1. Set up a logistical and sound proposal to submit to your boss for you to attend the NACAC National Conference, which will be in Columbus, Ohio this year. The sessions are about an hour to an hour and half and the information you receive is incredible! It will be worth the money to send you out to learn any and everything you can. Become a sponge! Not to mention the amount of people you will meet. (I am looking at you, Phil Trout, NACAC President! Pleasure sitting next to you and your wife at the Keynote speech of Sal Khan this year)
  1. Submit a proposal for your local affiliate’s Conference. I just submitted my first proposal with a group of admissions counselors that I met on the road during my travels. I am honestly thrilled to wait on the decision. I feel like a student waiting on a collegiate decision! But, while I am waiting for my proposal to be decided upon, I have been asked to present proposals for other conferences. It becomes a life of its own, which looks awesome moving forward and up the ladder.
  1. Social media has become my friend. I follow #EMChat (Thursday Nights at 9pm on Twitter). Here you learn from different professionals in the field about how they are using different tools on their campuses as well as meeting and chatting with different levels in command. Everyone from counselors to Associate Directors, Deans, Directors and Vice Presidents of Enrollment Management participate in the conversation. I love it! I also use social media to connect with current and prospective students. I like to tweet out when I am on the road what high schools and college fairs I will be attending that coming day. Students have direct messaged me as well to ask questions about their acceptance.
  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! I have built, and currently am still building, a long list of colleagues.  Every time I reach out with a question I have always received a response, even from people I have met only once while at NACAC.

These are just a few things that I hope you can incorporate moving forward.

I now have a question for you. What are ways you get involved? I would love to connect and chat with you. Tweet me @brianatstevens

Hopefully I will meet some of you at the NACAC National Conference, #EMChat on Thursday nights, or at a local affiliate’s conference.  Good luck!

Keeping Up With the…InquiriesMonday, November 30th, 2015

counselor-brianThe college admissions profession is full of ups and downs. Those in it, particularly young counselors, are finding that they need to constantly acquire and sharpen new skills without a clearly defined career path.

This guest blog, the first in a series, will follow one college counselor as he navigates the current admissions recruiting cycle. He is Brian Switay, a second year admissions counselor at Stevens Institute of Technology, a private research university in Hoboken, New Jersey.  His stories are intended to provide an inside look at the challenges he faces as he aspires to grow and advance in the profession.


By Brian Switay:

With Travel Season coming to a close and application reading approaching faster than the next season of your favorite television series, one can only reflect on the travel season they had in the (not so short) lull of action between traveling and reading. Yes, it is true; many are still finalizing their final weeks of travel, while others are back in the office, responding to emails and phone calls about decision timeframes and if you will be receiving their official scores from CollegeBoard.

Then you remember I want to browse through all the inquiry cards that I have received and reach out to some students to give some personalized attention. As you scour your notes, it hits you. How can I really personalize this information a couple of weeks after meeting them? I am sure that most of you place what you discussed, what program of interest the student seeks out, or their close relationship to an alumni or employee, but did you ever take notes on the personal interests of the student?

I can say that the best relationships that I have fostered with a student and family are not based off of what program they are interested in pursuing but how to connect with that family on a personal level. Ask questions indicative of what the student is wearing at the fair or why they want to study this field. I have built a great relationship with a family after listening to their suggestion on them loving Mexican food and after a campus tour, where do I recommend? After a few days, I HAND WROTE a letter explaining how happy I was to have met them and hope that they enjoyed their lunch at Charrito’s in Hoboken. (The best in town!). When I attended a college fair at her high school, the family approached me with a menu of their recommendation for their favorite Mexican restaurant in their town! I was shocked! After that interaction, I learned that she is planning on applying Early Decision 1 based on how attentive I was to her personal interests.

I have also gone out of my way to make myself available to the best of the worst celebrity gossip, who is dating whom, what is the best television show out, who’s album is currently trending on iTunes, what is the latest phrase and terminology, and relating these thoughts (and sometimes phrases) back to the student in a way that they can connect with the program of study they are interested in. For example, one student said that he was interested in pursuing Mathematics (but had no idea why or what he can do with the degree upon graduation) and that he was also a huge Ben Stiller fan. I quickly proceeded to ask him if he had ever seen the movie Along Came Polly, to which he replied with an enthusiastic “Yes” (Ben Stiller stars in this film)! I continued to explain that Ben Stiller plays an Actuarial Scientist and calculates the risk for people in life for insurance or financial programs and that the student can achieve the same career with a degree in Mathematics as one of the options. By connecting with him on a personal level and how he can achieve something based on such a small interest can open the doors and make your jobs easier.

So I ask, how have you connected with your students lately?

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