10 Things I Learned at the 2017 Summer Institute

The Ohio Association for College Admission Counseling (OACAC) hosted its Annual Summer Institute for its newest admissions professionals and high school counselors this past week at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). Through mentor group discussions, panels, and presentations, I learned everything I needed to know (and more) to conquer the upcoming travel season, and the rest of my first year as an admissions counselor. Here are the top 10 things I learned at the 2017 Summer Institute (SI):

10) Our job, as admissions professionals and high school counselors, is to change lives

This motto was introduced to the SI attendees within the first sixty seconds of the first featured speaker’s address. Van Wright, Assistant to the Vice Provost for Strategic Enrollment Planning at BGSU, shared his passion for shaping the futures of students and their families. He made it clear that our job would be difficult; whether that meant answering many questions time and time again, or dropping a Big Mac on our white t-shirts during travel. None of the challenges matter, Van said, when a student you recruited asks to take a photo with you at their college/university graduation. You helped them get their foot in the door. You provided them the opportunity to succeed in higher education. You changed their life, and they will go on to change others.

9) Nobody wants to grow up to be an admissions counselor

It’s true – we all wanted to be doctors, astronauts, singers, and even garbage truck drivers (because we thought it meant a one-day work week), but we did not discover the world of admissions until we experienced the application process as high school students. Most of us “fell into” college admissions; and for that, we will be forever grateful.

8) To quote High School Musical, “we’re all in this together”

SI taught me that I have an immense support system in my career, outside of my office (although I must admit my office support system is the bomb.com, S/O to my University of Akron colleagues!) We may be recruiting the same students, but ultimately, we all want what is best for those students. We are not each other’s competition, but are instead each other’s backbones. I now know who I can turn to for a Tide stick when I inevitably drop that Big Mac on my outfit on the road.

7) Speaking of music, admissions professionals LOVE karaoke

Seriously. Nothing unites a group of strangers quite like covers of Lil Jon, Lady Gaga, and an eerily realistic rendition of New Edition’s “Can You Stand the Rain”.

6) To go from being a good counselor to a great one, you must go the extra mile

BGSU’s very own Sarah Zachrich and Ali Tracy shared their tips about how to become the best admissions counselor in the office and on the road. They stressed the importance of offering a personalized experience to each student that asks for one. Although we are typically swimming in to-do lists, and it might be tempting to push students to attend a larger visit day, it is crucial to remember that these personalized visits are invaluable. Call the financial aid office, connect with faculty, and email every current student you know to make these visits happen – because prospective students will notice your efforts. Great counselors eliminate the phrase “that’s not my job” from their vocabulary.

5) Don’t be afraid to ask for more responsibility, but remember you can also ask for help

Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone to take on further responsibilities is the best way to grow personally and professionally. Evaluate what skills you want to develop, and discuss opportunities with your supervisor. On the other hand, if you feel that your current work quality will suffer, don’t be afraid to decline an additional opportunity provided by your supervisor. Remember that your prospective students (as well as your mental health and well-being) deserve the best version of yourself. Don’t overload your plate with too much responsibility.

4) There are many resources available to help you master territory management

I can’t begin to tell you how many gasps I heard after Thiel College Senior Admissions Counselor, Jake Kos, mapped out his travel schedule on BatchGeo. “Where was this tool when I planned my travel?!” was the common response. Jake also presented the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Ohio School Report Card, and School Digger. These tools provide data about public and private high schools across the nation including student/teacher ratios, ethnic makeup, student performance, enrollment, graduation rates, and more. These data can help to determine which schools in your territory are worth visiting.

3) Bring your business card with you EVERYWHERE you go

If I didn’t already learn this lesson firsthand at SI, Adrea Spoon, BGSU’s Director of Admissions, imprinted this message in my mind. You never know where you might meet a prospective student or their parents; it could be at Cedar Point in Sandusky or at Cheers Restaurant in Boston! If your business card is always handy, you will have endless opportunities to grow your network and market your institution.

2) If you want to enhance your career, you need to get involved

Whether you join an OACAC committee or volunteer at your institution’s move-in day, it is critical to get involved. Volunteering allows you to form relationships and build your professional network; and we have all heard the expression “it’s who you know, not what you know”. Volunteer work also provides you with skills training that you may not be utilizing in your office. Get out and get involved! Again – don’t forget to bring that business card!

1) The admissions profession is the greatest profession in the world

Sure, we work weeknights and weekends sometimes. Yes, other times we forget to schedule enough time to eat a real lunch. But what other profession allows you to drive a brand-new rental car to a comfy hotel bed, after changing the lives of students and their families every day? 🙂

If you attended this year’s Summer Institute, what did you learn?


By: Bre Koch

Admissions Counselor

The University of Akron