By Melissa Brock
Official Blogger for NCAG
I spent 12 years working in college admission. Over the course of time, college admission became more and more a transactional experience. By the time I left the field, I was lucky to talk to a parent over the phone, much less a student. After meeting with a family in the admission office, I had a better chance of hearing from them again, but it wasn't always guaranteed. It was truly a hands-off experience in the end.
In 2012, most teens said their favorite way to communicate with friends was "in person." In 2018, most teens said they liked texting best (35%), according to Common Sense, a children's and media advocacy organization. Less than one third in 2018 said they prefer chatting with friends face-to-face.
We already knew that, right?
Here's the issue: Families often don't believe they need to communicate with the admission office or build a deep relationship with their admission counselor. In fact, I don't think it even occurs to them, or more likely, they don't have the time to develop a relationship. Result: The admission counselor seems like a piece of furniture.
I badly wanted to build relationships with students. I wanted to talk to them, hear their stories. While I managed hundreds of applicants, the ones who stood out were the handful of students who reached out to me. The students who knew our admission counselors scored an advantage, there's no doubt about it -- they gained access to more opportunities.
Imagine this: Your family hits it off with an admission counselor, and later on, that admission counselor has a conversation with a science professor who happens to mention, "I need a student assistant in my introductory chemistry class this semester."
The admission counselor may say, "I happen to know a student! I just met him and he'd be fantastic!"
This actually happened, and my student secured an excellent work-study job. This also led to a professional relationship that has lasted to this day -- the student has since left graduate school (on the professor's recommendation) and is in the workforce!
My favorite students received the best hints on how to choose the right residence hall, introductions to alumni, even meetings with the president. I even recommended students I knew for an independent scholarship that the professors were giving away.
Does this always mean that your students will gain additional access to more financial aid? No. Not necessarily. However, I still suggest that the families you work with build a relationship with admission counselors or admission offices of the schools they're interested in, you may gain access to certain advantages.