Jade, an admissions officer, got scholarships for college using a little-known hack. She tells us all the details in this week’s exclusive insider interview. Plus, a discussion about her best and worst encounters with prospective students and her best piece of advice on succeeding as a college student. Continue reading below. (This is part 2 of a 2-part interview. Catch up on part 1.)
Exclusive Insider Interview: Admissions Officer, a public Alabama university*
SocratesPost: You’ve talked to so many students and secondary school professionals. What strategies have you noticed are the most effective to get them excited about your institution? Is it like a presentation? Is it getting current students to talk? What do you do to get them excited?
Jade at Alabama: It’s a little bit of presentation, but it’s also, again, meeting them where they’re at. If I’m talking to a student and they’re having a bad day, I’m not going to get through to that student that day. So it’s making sure that I’m on the same level as the student. I can be very hyper and extroverted. And if I come in and I’m a little bit too much for a student, they’re going to immediately count me out. So I just have to make sure that I’m meeting the students where they’re at.
One of the biggest strategies is that one-on-one meeting, and just explaining to the student how they fit. I’ve learned that the personal touches really, really make a difference. I can talk to an entire class of students, go over my entire presentation, tell you about housing, tell you about the beach, tell you about all that. But if I don’t tell you about the program that you’re interested in, you’re not going to listen to me. So just making sure that I am hitting what they’re very interested in, even if that’s an extracurricular. There’s so many students who are like, “I don’t know what I want to be involved in.” “Oh, you like Photography? Cool, this is our photography club.” Just making sure that I’m making those personal touches, and then following up with the students as well with the personal touches. Even just a quick text, “Hey, it was wonderful meeting you and your family,” or, I’ve learned that my students love mail. Everybody hates junk mail; I hate junk mail so much. I never want to check my mailbox. But when I hand write them a card and drop it in the mail – even though they’re not going to get it for a week – I always get a text back, or if I see them again, they’re like, “Thank you so much for that card,” or, “Thank you for sending me that information.” As long as you just put that personal touch to it, I think that’s most important, because right now, everything is so automated. Everything is so fake.
SocratesPost: Students sometimes wonder if college admissions departments are just a bunch of faceless people. They get the automated emails, and maybe they’ll get a mistake email that was supposed to go to someone else, but instead it went to them, and it was the wrong name or something like that. What you do – texting the individual, having a one-on-one, sending the handwritten card – really shows that you’re putting individualized attention to it. I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t get the students excited at that age.
Jade at Alabama: It’s pretty funny, and you can tell they know when you’re not being genuine, or when it’s an automated something going out. We use a texting service like most schools, and over the holidays, I sent out a massive “Happy Holidays” message to all of my students, and I got back some pretty nasty texts. People called me the most awful names.
Somebody replied and told me that they were going to blow up Ohio, so of course, I had to call the cops. I kind of turned that person in, because you can’t play about those things nowadays. They know when it’s not personal, and they’ll getcha if it’s not.
SocratesPost: I think students aren’t sure if, when they respond to a mass text or mass email, the sender reads it. But it sounds like you do get texts back.
Jade at Alabama: Oh, gosh. That’s one thing I wish students knew, is that we do read everything. I hate to be the tattletale that has to go to the counselor and be like, “Your student called me to the B-word because I told them “Happy Holidays.” That’s just not fun. I know it does happen, because I’m in a couple of other college groups, and I’ve noticed it happens a lot more to the women than the men, or maybe the women are just more apt to say something. Because literally, there was a post the other day that was like, “Sent out a mass text and all these people cussed me out. What do I do?” We’ve all just kind of agreed we need to let the counselor know, just so that they can let the student know, “That’s not professional. That can affect you in the long run. You need to not do that.”
SocratesPost: What do you think the students are so upset about?
Jade at Alabama: I wish I knew. I make sure that all of my texts end in, “Your admissions advisor, Jade” so that they know, “Hey, it’s me, I’m a real person.” And anybody who is in our text messaging system is somebody who has opted in. It’s somebody who either applied, or filled out a card, or has shown interest. It’s not like we’ve we bought names and just text random people. But I wish I knew why they were so angry. I don’t know. That’s a great question.
SocratesPost: You were talking about there being 70 countries represented at your university. Do they qualify for scholarships, merit aid, and things like that? Or are they expected to pay full tuition?
Jade at Alabama: They do. We have scholarships and financial aid for international students, but that’s through our international admissions, so that’s a whole different ball game.
SocratesPost: Okay, so that’s not the same as if you meet the minimum GPA and test scores, you can get this number of dollars a year, that’s totally different. That’s only for domestic students?
Jade at Alabama: I think they’re talking about incorporating that; I’m not sure so far. The in-state has only been effective as of this year, so I’m not sure if they were able to extend it to the international admissions.
SocratesPost: Can you tell me one memorable positive encounter with a student, and one very memorable negative encounter with a student?
SocratesPost: Especially because that turned into a personal relationship, which is something that everyone’s looking for. In any sort of professional encounter, they’re hoping they can become friends and kind of have a longer-term relationship. It’s great that you were able to do that with her.
SocratesPost: It sounds like a reciprocated relationship where, of course, you care so much about them because you spent the time to get to know them individually, but they care about you too. They probably miss you, and they’re wondering when you’re going to be back, and when they can see you again, and “How’s the baby?” I’ve talked to a lot of professionals in higher ed and I’ve got to say I haven’t encountered one that has such a close and positive relationship – and long term relationship – with their students.
SocratesPost: Tell me about the negative encounter that you had.
SocratesPost: When you say that you vouch for them, who are you vouching them toward? Is it the person reading application? Or is there a different committee? Who are you speaking to on their behalf?
SocratesPost: I was curious about the early admissions program. I know that it’s in their junior year that the students can apply, but if they do that, do they still get their high school diploma? Or are they concurrently going to high school and college at the same time?
SocratesPost: And if they are accepted into both undergrad and grad, it’s almost like they don’t have to go through the application again when they’re a senior in undergrad, or they don’t have to take the graduate admissions test. Is that one of the benefits of early admissions?
SocratesPost: I just have one more question. What do you tend to tell your students when they ask you, “How can I best succeed in college?”
This concludes our interview with Jade!