What Is a College Admissions Counselor?

Cassie L. Damewood

A college admissions counselor is the person in charge of advising and screening prospective and incoming students. He is instrumental in coordinating programs designed to encourage enrollment through presenting the college’s curriculum, degree programs and post-graduate offerings in a positive light. In many cases, he is the first point of contact for potential enrollees, so his positive depiction of the institution is crucial.

College admissions counselors help students select colleges that are a good fit for them academically and socially.
College admissions counselors help students select colleges that are a good fit for them academically and socially.

A person in this position represents the college both on and off campus. He meets with everyone involved in the process of selecting a college. This includes high school counselors, students and parents. He may actively recruit for admissions, but normally, interested parties in the process of choosing a college approach him at college open houses and higher education fairs and expositions. This regularly involves local and interstate travel.

An admissions counselor may help students find the right courses for their academic goals.
An admissions counselor may help students find the right courses for their academic goals.

From his campus office, a college admissions counselor develops and implements recruitment outreach programs in conjunction with internal and external agencies, including alumni associations. Their common goal is to reach a socially, economically and ethnically diverse group of potential students. The programs offered are required to have mass appeal concurrent with addressing specific wants and needs for students with vastly different backgrounds.

Aptitutde testing may be part of a student's process of determining which educational options are best for him or her.
Aptitutde testing may be part of a student's process of determining which educational options are best for him or her.

Besides recruiting, a college admissions counselor advises interested high school students on educational options. This process often involves aptitude testing and assessing personality traits and interests. Further screening entails reviewing applications, scoring entrance essays and evaluating letters of reference from teachers, mentors and other counselors.

A college admissions counselor must understand the qualities and credentials that her school expects from applicants.
A college admissions counselor must understand the qualities and credentials that her school expects from applicants.

Other student concerns regularly addressed by a college admission counselor include housing options, socialization concerns and challenges, financial aid and work-study programs. Outside of speaking with your counselor about financial concerns, you can apply to easy scholarships to help offset the costs of education.

Admissions counselors often have a background in counseling.
Admissions counselors often have a background in counseling.

These concerns may be discussed in person on campus, during college fairs or at high school recruitment events. E-mail communications are gaining in popularity and many colleges have Web sites that answer frequently asked questions and provide portals whereby students can submit questions and receive personalized responses.

A successful college admissions counselor should be able to understand the needs of potential college students.
A successful college admissions counselor should be able to understand the needs of potential college students.

A college admissions counselor is expected to complete administrative tasks in addition to his recruitment responsibilities. These may include maintaining student contact records and writing reports on recruitment successes, failures and challenges. He is also required to correspond with high school teachers and counselors regarding the status of applicants. Regular assessments of recruitment programs are required to revise or improve them for the next enrollment campaign.

A bachelor’s degree in counseling or education is generally required for this job. At least one year of counseling or recruitment experience is strongly preferred. All successful candidates will have solid organizational and communications skills, coupled with an energetic, positive spirit and outgoing personality.

College admissions counselors deal with students from a variety of backgrounds.
College admissions counselors deal with students from a variety of backgrounds.

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Discussion Comments

Columurne
There are also private college counselors, as well. In a perfect world, private counselors would never be needed, but the reality is school counselors often have huge caseloads of students and are not able to provide the individualized and timely attention needed, and the kind of attention they would ideally prefer to give each student.

From my experience, school counselors often don’t start advising students until senior year, and in my opinion, that is just way too late. There are myriad reasons as to why, but to cite just one, earlier application deadlines often provide students a chance to apply against a smaller pool of applicants, potentially tipping the scale in that student’s favor. These deadlines tend to be in October and November. Because college admissions advising is just getting started around that time, many student miss out on the chance to apply during this opportune time.

Private counselors can be hired as consultants by a family or found through non-profit organizations offering these services to under-served students. They are usually former college admission officers or high school college counselors. I am a former college admissions officer who now does private admissions counseling.

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