Consultants, like schools, can differ in fundamental ways. Our mission at William M Shain Consulting is to help you achieve your institution's
recruitment goals while treating constituents well, both in the marketplace and on campus. Treating prospective families well is simply good business
practice. In addition, enrolling an appropriate student cohort is important to all members of your campus community.
We are guided by three core principles: (I) Sensitivity to your school's traditions and values. Your marketing message, recruitment practices and
admission decisions must be consistent with what your school stands for.(2 Practicality. Our reports are crisp and action-oriented. We do not measure the quality of our work by the frequency with which we can produce fifty-page reports with a multitude of graphs and charts. You want to know what to do, and to be able to isolate this with ease in a report. (3) Cost-efficiency. As a small firm, we have a significantly lower operational overhead than the larger companies which consult with educational institutions. As a result, our prices will always be competitive.
The services described here can be delivered independently. They benefit, however, from being pursued in combination, The needs of no two colleges or universities are identical, of course, and the specific protocol recommended will always be adapted to the particular needs of your institution.
My experience has produced results
At Macalester College (St. Paul, MN), applications increased 100% in my first seven years as dean and 200% during my entire 17-
year tenure. The percentage of students offered first-year admission declined from 84% to 54%, thus making the college more selective.
During my eight years as dean of undergraduate admissions at Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN), applications increased by 50% and the first-year student admission rate declined from 61% to 32%. Vanderbilt also achieved record student diversity during my tenure.
During my two years at Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME), applications increased 12% (20% in the areas for which I served as recruitment
coordinator), and enrollment of African-American and Latino students increased more than 100%. Bowdoin's 18.5% admission rate for the class that
entered in August 2008 was the lowest on record, putting the school among the nation's most highly selective.
Assess your needs
Enrolling a class is a complex endeavor involving a wide range of office activities. Best practice is periodically to conduct an admissions operations assessment to determine which processes are functioning well and which ones could benefit from attention. An admissions assessment examines all office functions including: the marketing message and its dissemination, staff management and the managerial climate, data collection and its analysis and strategic application, campus visits (including interviews and tours), travel planning and assessment and more. A detailed report then highlights improvements which will have bottom-line impact.
Market your institution more effectively
Effective recruitment protocols are based on reality. An institution must have a clear grasp of how it is perceived by its publics and how it might be perceived more accurately or more effectively. This can be learned through a combination of professionally conducted research—focus groups, phone and:or e-mail surveys, and thoughtful review of existing institutional data(ASQ, CIRP, etc.), I have extensive experience in all of these areas.
Research alone, however, cannot deliver success. The institution must also describe itself in a way that is crisp, compelling, accurate, and comfortable for the school community. I have supervised the formulation of a successful marketing message at each of the three institutions for which I have headed the admission process.
Finally, admissions publications, correspondence, and the institutional website must consistently and vividly convey the marketing message. Again, I have supervised this process at the three schools where I was employed, and others as a consultant.
Create Action Steps from Data
An effective recruitment protocol must be based on data. What is in the database for institutions, of course, will vary. We arc experienced in moving data utilization forward no matter What is currently recorded. The initial step is to determine whether all critical information is being retained. In addition, it is important to create user-friendly reports, and establish a protocol for how often each report is compiled and where it is distributed. Finally, these reports form the foundation for the creation of effective recruitment activities.
The Admitted Student Questionnaire (ASQ) offered by the College Board
provides a wealth Ol' information about institutional perceptions and the
functioning of the admissions team. Many institutions purchase this analysis,
but do more than review it and place it on a shelf in the office of the head
of the office. We analyze ASQ reports, and derive important action Steps from
the data they contain, and we do this at a far lower cost that external research
Streamline the admission process
Too often, admission processes are conducted according to tradition: "We've
always done it this way." Careful analysis of the admission decision process
can improve efficiency and create time for other activities that can positively
impact the bottom line. This analysis should include: l) assessment of reader
loads, with consideration of individual strengths and other managerial duties; 2)
revicw of the reader sheet and the extent to which all aspects are useful; 3)
supervision of the reading process [Are all readers completing their work in a
timely manner? Are outside readers needed? If so, how many? How effective
existing outside readers?]; 4) reader training, 5) efficiency of the admission
committee and decision-making process, identifying and eliminating
bottlenecks; and 6) evaluation of computer support.
Admit the right students
The purpose of the admission process is to create a campus community
consistent with institutional mission, The process should br reviewed in the
context Of institutional goals: I) Does the process focus on academic potential
as its primary goal? 2) Can the Office of Student Affairs work well with the
pool of admitted students? 3) How effective is the admission process in
evaluating underrepresented students? International students? Home-schooled
students? Other less traditional candidates? 4) Are all admission ratings
verifiable by institutional research? 5) Do the ratings evaluate the qualities that
ale central to the institution's mission* 6) Does the current process have blind
spots that prevent it from enrolling the most desirable entering class possible?
Improve campus visits
As I visit college campuses, I am struck by the fact that while visits are handled
earnestly, they are rarely handled well. This is important, since students who
visit campus are the most motivated prospects for enrollment. It is critical that
their campus visit enhances their interest, converting them to applicants and
hopefillly to enrollees. It is rare that an admission office subjects the campus
visit to external analysis, thereby acquiring the benefit of a skilled set of "fresh
eyes." Most aspects of the campus visit protocol, however, are appropriately
subject to review: I ) the process by which viSlts arc encouraged and scheduled;
2) reception area procedures; 3) the Campus tour in terms of message, route,
and style of information delivery; 4) on-campus inten:iews; and 5) services
available to visiting students.
Enhance staff management
Admission officers are a critical component of institutional recruitment and
outreach. Each officer typically works with hundreds or even thousands of
families in each recruitment cycle. This function is Often worthy Of review: l)
Is the staff size appropriate to Institutional goals? 2) Is the office effectively
organized to perform its myriad managerial functions? 3) Does the office
maintain effective and congenial relationships With appropriate campus offices
—Athletics, Academic Affairs, the Alumni Office, Student Affairs, etc.? 4) Is
staff training appropriate and cfTcctivc? 5) Is staff retention strong? As
experienced admission omcers are the backbone Of an effective recruitment
protocol, excessive turnover is a problem that can and must be addressed.
Provide executive coaching
Do you supervise a talented staff member you would like to see rise to the next
level of achievement? Or perhaps you have a key employee who is failing to
show the managerial skills needed to execute work tasks as well as you want.
Or you may be struggling to improve your own relationship with your
supervisor, or with staff who report to you, In cach of thcsc situations,
coaching can bring remarkable results. I work individually With clients in
person or by phone through individual weekly sessions. typically lasting one
hour. My expenence in coaching admissions professionals has determined that
10 insure the hest results, the minimum commitment is for twelve sessions.
Important gains arc almost always seen in that time, and even more can be
achieved when coaching is continued for another three to nine months, or even