High Performing Admissions Professionals in Private Sector Colleges & Universities

by Agota Alvarez

High-Performing Recruiting in Private Sector Colleges and Universities: Balancing the Needs of Students, Support Networks, Schools, and Investors

Caliper has identified the personality dynamics of successful admissions professionals and the competencies required to balance the needs of a diverse set of stakeholders.

During the course of the last decade, the for-profit colleges and universities industry has grown from 235% in enrollment, increasing market share from 3% to 9.1% of all tertiary enrolled students. Between 2008 and 2010, the largest eleven education companies experienced an increase to enrollments of over 30%. This very impressive rate of growth can be attributed to a number of economic and technological factors that have come into play during this time frame.

However, a significant factor in support of this growth has been the performance of admissions professionals (serving in roles titled such admissions representatives, career planning professionals, recruiters, etc.). These professionals often serve as the primary channel through which qualified applicants are identified and informed of their academic options. They must counsel and guide prospective students as they define their academic and professional goals, choose the right program(s) to help them meet those goals, and overcome the many obstacles that make it difficult to register for school and to ultimately graduate. They must conduct these recruitment activities in accordance with state and federal law, as well as in compliance with accreditation and institute policies and regulations. Incumbents have to, at all times, balance the best interests of the prospective students, their support networks, the schools, and investors; as they ensure that all recruiting activities are conducted in line with the highest ethical standards. Admissions professionals maximize outcomes for all stakeholders when they exhibit exemplary performance in these areas.

At the core of this role, admissions professionals must expertly manage their time and inquiry resources to achieve weekly and monthly appointment rates, as well as attain ambitious class-start enrollment goals. Each individual admissions professional will often field a large number of prospect phone calls to set weekly appointments and interviews. They must also follow up with unresolved interviewees and future class participants. Performing at high levels in this role has become even more difficult in recent years, given significantly higher standards for student outcomes and increased regulations on recruiting practices.

Caliper has been assessing the potential and performance of admissions professionals during the course of the last ten years, and has conducted an extensive series of studies in which success factors have been identified and defined for the most successful of these admissions professionals. In these studies we have investigated a wide-range of performance factors, the challenges faced in this role, and how trends in the business environment will continue to impact performance and competency requirements in the future. This research-driven success model can serve as the basis for a comprehensive talent management approach that clearly defines the behaviors and competency areas most related to high performance, as well as the personality traits and motivational factors that support them. The benefits of this line of study include:

Enhanced accuracy of hiring decisions
This research has enabled us to scientifically link measures of personal attributes to the outcomes and tasks required for success in the role. This linking of potential, behavior, and results allows for a much more objective and focused assessment of individuals’ capabilities, which better enables managers to select only those job candidates who have a high probability of achieving success in the role.

Targeted employee development
The results of this research provide a clear illustration of the tasks and the personal characteristics that are most related to high performance levels. Armed with this information, leaders and managers will be well positioned to devise training and development interventions that focus specifically on closing any gaps that exist between Admissions Representatives’ performance and ultimate potential.

Of course, schools vary significantly with respect to courses offered, degrees and certificates conferred, professional opportunities available upon completion of the academic program, teaching channels (e.g., online versus traditional), teaching philosophy, and marketing techniques. Therefore, in this study we examined the drivers of high performance within the context of these variables. Gaining an even deeper understanding of the personality traits, competencies, and behavioral tendencies that are related to success in these different contexts will enable school leadership to take a more targeted approach to managing the talent in this critical role.

Key Performance Areas for Admissions Professionals

As part of this research we conducted a series of focus group discussions and one-on-one interviews with key stakeholders (high-performing incumbents, supervisors, senior leadership, etc.). From a number of schools that provide programs in varying disciplines, such as: