College Admissions Counselor  What They Do

Just the Facts


Insider Info

dotThere's a special kind of panic that sets in for some people in their final year of high school. You can see it in their eyes. They know they have to continue their education, but they don't know what to do or where to do it.

That's where college admissions counselors come in. They're the people who turn up at high schools between September and December. They give presentations about the university or college they work for, talk about programs the institution offers and sometimes even offer guidance on financial assistance.

Every month, they chat with thousands of students across the country. And while the blur of students can be overwhelming, these people have to look at every person as an individual.

dotIn the U.S., the main body representing admissions counselors is the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC).

dotAdmissions officers typically start out with a clerical part-time job in administration. There they become familiar with admissions procedures and make contacts with the people who do the hiring.

Most college admissions counselors work on a full-time basis. But some are on contracts that extend from August to December.

dotCollege admissions officers work long hard hours, particularly during the heavy recruitment months of September through to December. Overtime is common and they may sometimes work on weekends.

Donna Raczynski is a former director of professional development with the NACAC. "In the spring and fall, you might hit your first high school at 8 a.m. and leave around 3 p.m., and then you'll do a college night from 7 to 9 p.m. During one tour, you could have 5,000 to 15,000 people come through," Raczynski says.

dotTravel is another big consideration. While smaller colleges usually draw locally, counselors at the big universities get a chance to travel the country, sometimes even going overseas.

"There's a lot of traveling and a lot of burnout," says Ron Koger. He is assistant vice-president for enrollment services at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

"I always tell my people that they've got to pick up something back at the office like publications or [college] transfers, just so you're not a roadrunner."

Katherine MacNeill is the manager of recruitment at a university. She agrees. "The recruitment people are based on campus, but they certainly would do an enormous amount of travel."

dotStudent use of the web and university websites continues to rise. They are now visiting these sites for admission information, course catalogs and descriptions of programs.

University admissions offices also use the Internet for student recruitment and to communicate with prospective students. Applications are being accepted online, and institutions have enhanced the electronic application process.

dotPeople with most kinds of special needs may still have the ability to do this job. What you need most are good communication, analytical and people skills.

At a Glance

Recruit and counsel students

  • You'll talk with thousands of students every month
  • Overtime is common during the busy times
  • Good people skills and a university degree are required