I started working in the admissions office in my third year at Oberlin as a student tour guide and then as a senior fellow. Toward the end of my fourth year, I applied for a counselor position, officially starting my first full-time job on July 1, 2019, a little over a year ago. Throughout this year, I have learned a lot about the college selection process. Admissions work is cyclical, adjusting as the needs of prospective students change. It can be roughly broken down into four seasons and while it is not clear what this summer and fall will look like given the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m going to break down how a usual year operates.
During the summer, admissions counselors plan for fall travel and meet with students and families who visit campus. In the fall, we visit schools, host info sessions, and attend college fairs across the country. At Oberlin, each counselor has certain states or territories that we are responsible for. Travel has many benefits for both us and for the students that apply to Oberlin. One of the biggest benefits for us is that we get to become more familiar with the schools we represent. This familiarity helps us get a better sense of fit for Oberlin, the level of academic rigor students have been exposed to, and allows us to build good relationships with the counselors whose letters of recommendation we will be reading.
The late fall and winter are what we call reading season. During this time, we break into pairs to review students’ applications and begin to form the incoming class. I personally found reading to be the most grueling part of the job as we spend all day in our offices reading applications with only occasional breaks to stretch our legs. Finally, spring is when we invite all the admitted students to campus for programs like All Roads Lead to Oberlin, Oberlin’s admitted student visit program, so students can decide if Oberlin is right for them. Spring is also the time when we start to meet the next group of applicants, as high school juniors take on the college search process.
Additionally, within the office, counselors play many different roles. Just like we all have our own recruitment regions, we also have different areas of expertise. I work with communications, an area that naturally fits into my experience with film and art. Aside from writing these blogs, I also contribute to the email and social media teams, specifically working on our Facebook page and student groups. Other counselors work with athletics, visit programs, international students, and in many other areas. These groups work all year round, planning projects and events as we go through the yearly cycle.
The one constant in all admissions jobs all year round is connecting with students and parents. Throughout the whole year, we are meeting students at different points in their college search and telling them about Oberlin. It’s this constant communication that keeps the job fresh for me. Everyone is looking for something different from college, and my job is to help them figure out if they can get that at Oberlin.
I encourage all prospective students, no matter where you are in the college search, to reach out to an admissions counselor and ask about their college or university. While we can only offer one perspective, all of us are just passionate people who cannot wait to tell you more about our schools.