The Next Best Thing to Cloning

Admissions Office, LIM College
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LIM College
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Faced with a rising applicant population and the desire to continue to provide one-on-one attention to strong student candidates, officials at LIM College in New York City feared declining enrollment if they could not find a way to clone their four admissions counselors or completely revamp the counselors’ role. With the help of consultants from GDA Integrated Services, LIM (formerly known as the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising) managed to do both, in a manner of speaking.

Before GDA’s involvement, LIM’s four admissions counselors spent a disproportionate amount of time answering basic questions via phone and e-mail about the college’s academic programs and extracurricular activities, and life in New York City. These responsibilities cut into the time available to advise high school seniors in the midst of applying to LIM and to make high school visits. Having to divide their time between tire kickers and serious applicants reduced the counselors’ effectiveness.

The solution GDA proposed, and which LIM implemented, was the creation of four Student Outreach Coordinator (SOC) positions, filled by current LIM students. The addition of four counselor support roles enabled admissions counselors to invest their time with serious applicants, or high school seniors in the throes of deciding where to attend, while having the SOCs answer the early-stage questions posed by other high school students and their families.

Student outreach coordinators save admissions counselors' time while sharing their first-hand perspectives of life as a student at LIM with applicants.

Although considered student workers, other students might be assigned more mundane tasks, such as filing and mailing, while SOCs are truly acting admissions counselors. LIM students apply for the positions and are chosen based on their superior communication and social skills?many already work in the admissions office and, therefore, have a level of familiarity with the office’s mission. After being trained for their new role, each shadows an assigned counselor to better understand what work should be assumed while the counselor is traveling. They each work 12 hours a week and are paid $10 per hour, says Kristina Ortiz, assistant dean of admissions?higher than most on-campus jobs. But for many, the added responsibility and opportunities to beef up their r?sum?s and gain experience at activities, such as large event planning, are worth more than the weekly paycheck.

Some SOCs have access to their counselor’s e-mail accounts, so they can monitor incoming questions and issues, and others are given lists of tasks and contacts to be made in the counselor’s absence. As SOCs become more comfortable with their role, they take on greater responsibilities.

Beyond the considerable time savings to admissions counselors, which is far more than the 48 hours or so per week that the four SOCs invest in total, is the added benefit of being able to share a student’s first-hand perspective with applicants. Connecting prospective LIM applicants with current students not only answers questions about classes they liked, professors they didn’t, and clubs they belong to, but it nurtures relationships that can encourage a student to apply.

“As a small college, we pride ourselves on providing personalized service,” says Ortiz. Partnering admissions counselors with students-turned-ambassadors provides a more well-rounded picture of life at LIM, and has yielded increasing enrollment. First-year enrollment yields rose from 36 percent in 2009 to 40 percent in 2010, thanks to LIM’s one-two admissions punch. ?M.L.T.