Breaking Down The Admission Team: Week 3: The Bench

Alright, after a break for the election and Thanksgiving, it’s time to refocus on the important things in life… like Fantasy Football.

If you apply to a selective school (schools that  have an admit rate of less than 33%), they will use a holistic review process. Given that full-time admission staff also needs to travel for recruitment, meet with families, and make presentations on campus, there is simply no way for them to also read every application, front to back, with care and detail.

In Fantasy Football when you’re down a player, you need to have a good bench: skilled, experienced, and readily available to help out when the team is down. And trust me, when thousands of applications pour in on the last two days before the deadline and you are looking at a calendar trying to calculate daily quotas, you can feel down. The weather is getting colder, the sun sets earlier, caffeine doesn’t have its normal effect, the kids get sick and… sorry, where was I? Oh, yeah… the bench. Every good team has to have one, and in admission offices around the country, the bench are the seasonal employees.

 Our Bench: The Seasonals

Back when we received about 17,000 applications at Tech, we had five folks on the “bench.” Now we’ve crossed over the 30,000 mark, and our bench has grown to 15 (for context, plenty of other institutions employ well over 50 seasonal readers). Some schools only hire former admission officers, teachers, or counselors for these roles. We take a more holistic approach, so our bench includes an aerospace engineer, a former TV show producer, consultants from a variety of industries, several GT alums, and yes, some with extensive admission experience. Nationally, more and more of these employees work remotely, but ours mostly come into the office for 20-30 hours each week. They start with a week of training in early October to refresh on our process, learn any new updates, and go through complex application examples. They wrap up their work in mid-February each year.

Our staff loves this group– not just because they lighten their load, but because they bring life, energy, stories, and tons of personality with them each day. We call them “The Seasonals” (but we’re open to new team name suggestions).

Their Job

Seasonals come in specifically to read applications. Exactly which role this group plays varies from one school to the next, but ours are primarily doing first review. They review your transcript, enter your GPA in the system, count the number of AP/IB/ Dual Enrollment courses you’ve taken, note your highest math class, confirm official test scores are in, and verify that your senior schedule is complete. When they’re all reading, AND if our technology (including the Keurig) is working well, AND assuming no fire alarms, AND barring no silly meetings called by the director, they work through roughly 500 applications a day. Think of these folks as dental hygienists: they are poking and prodding around to ensure the file is complete, and clean, before advancing to second read.

Your Job

I’m not going to rename them “The Hygienists,” but to extend the metaphor, you would not intentionally put your tongue in the way of a double bend hook or ask to have your gum pierced by a sickle scaler. That would only lead to a bloody mess and severely slow the work of the hygienist. Similarly, you want to submit an application that’s clean and keeps these folks working smoothly.

1. Follow Directions. Before you start any section of an application, read all directions thoroughly. I know that sounds preachy, but this is a serious pitfall. Most applications specifically tell you not to abbreviate, and that’s for good reason. Sure, we know what Lit and Comp mean. But how about Dis of Hum Geo? Is that math or social science? And some abbreviations lead to all kinds of awkward… for example, Anal. Geometry is uncomfortably common.

2. Run Spellcheck. Senior schedules are basically free form, which can lead otherwise academically talented students to list Psycology, Psychologie, Scicology. Or how about Chemistrie, Cemistry, Chemistree? I’m not making these up, and they’re not one-offs either. The bench has a lot more patience for this kind of thing than I do (they’re good people, I tell you).  But remember that “best foot forward” thing? Yea… it’s a thing.

3. Be Specific. Students often say they’re taking Calculus spring of senior year, when in reality it’s actually Multivariate Calculus or BC Calculus. More information, not less, is the basic principle of holistic review.

4. Send All Transcripts. Have you switched schools in high school? Be sure that you have official transcripts sent from each one. We’ve seen plenty of examples of early grades being misrepresented (and often shortchanged) on the current school’s transcript. Is 9th grade not on your current high school transcript? Get it and send it.

Your School’s Job

1. Quality Check. Some schools (and at least one entire state) send photocopied transcripts (some with test score tapes covering important information). If we can’t read it, it’s pushed to the bottom of the stack until we can get a better copy. Not only does this not help your students and your school, but it also upsets the hygienist!

2. Help Us Help You. On the counselor form of The Common App, there is a place for “student rank.” This is where we should see simple numbers like 2/245 or 11/326. Instead, we will often see 1/119 followed by “Number sharing this rank: 21.” What the…?! 21 valedictorians? NO! Just like there should be limits to the distance off the highway that a restaurant must be in order to advertise on the exit sign, so too should there be limits to number sharing rank.

3. More Information, Not Less. Again, this is Rule 1 of holistic review. Selective colleges are making nuanced decisions. Based on application volume and class size, we are going to differentiate in extremely slight ways. Over the last decade we’ve seen fewer and fewer schools provide rank on profiles and forms. It’s moderately annoying, but borderline understandable. Lately we’ve seen a trend to not provide a GPA. Line crossed. Now we are in a position of making some uncomfortable assumptions about calculations in the absence of critical information.

I’ve heard many reasons from friends on the secondary side for these adjustments. Invariably, the headmaster or board or Grand Poohbah believes that not giving rank, or not giving GPA, or altering a grading scale, or not adding weight, is going to help more kids “get in.” We all have bosses, right? Admission directors can relate to the shoulder shrug, head tilt, eye roll, and knowing glance of “Yep. That’s what I told them.” Just humor me and add that Harvard’s admit rate is not going back above 7% regardless of how you frame your profile… and the bench doesn’t appreciate the extra splinters in the pine either.

Vegas, baby.

Our Seasonals primarily work out of two offices. These are small conference rooms with multiple desks or long tables. One is called “The Bat Cave.” The other is affectionately called “Vegas,” because what is said there stays there.

Don’t let the tips above be like Vegas. Share this, heed this, discuss these points, and put them into practice. We love reading your applications. We want to turn around decisions as fast as possible.

So show some love to the Seasonals as you submit information this winter. Accuracy and the quality of the information you and your school provide dictate their ability to keep the rest of the team moving. So how ’bout a slow clap for the bench?

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Thanksgiving Thoughts

Every Monday morning we meet as a Communications Team to talk about what is going on and what is going out that week. Basically, the agenda is broken into four parts:

1. Immediate outbound messages (aka email blasts): what are we saying to applicants and prospective students? FYI- prospective students are non-applicants who have either visited campus, met our staff during our travels, or whose name we’ve bought or been given from list sources (hm…. seems like we might need a blog soon on the entire search process, i.e. “how did you get my name?”).

2. Urgent/Fires: We’ve had 100 calls this week about X. Clearly, X is confusing on our website or in our publications, so we need to help people better understand X. Although, sometimes it’s about Y, which is dismissed as “Yeah, people are just going to call about that. It’s Y. Happens every year.” Or put differently “Y Happens.”

3. Future focus/Strategic: These are the bigger communication projects we’re working on, such as the production of videos, and publications that we’ll mail out in the coming months.

4. Social Media/ Timely: We talk a lot about helping people get a day to day sense of Tech. Pictures, stories, events… a “sense of face and place” is our basic purpose. We’ll review what we have and should be saying on social media. What is helpful and interesting? What can we learn from that engagement? Every few months we’ll discuss delving into Snapchat or whatever new social media platform is emerging. Then we’ll inevitably shelve that to “look at the analytics,” which is code for “<<insert new medium here>> just feels like we’re going too far.”

It’s in section four we talk about this blog. Have we received comments, or do people seem to be sharing it with others? What is happening right now in the admission cycle that we can attempt to bring some insight to? Or, did my kids do something ridiculous that we can somehow stretch into an analogy?

Is anyone out there?

Well, friends, this week is Thanksgiving. The basic consensus was that people are checked out. “Sure, you can write a blog but doubt anyone is going to read it.” They’re watching football, hanging out with family, sleeping, traveling. Counselors, teachers, and others in schools who may read occasionally are finished with most of their recommendation letters and just need a break. If they’re reading anything this week it’s a good novel they’ve put off for the last few months as school started and admission deadlines took over their lives.

Students aren’t reading this week either. They’re either totally checked out after meeting said deadlines, or they are focused on finishing papers or studying for impending tests. Parents… nope. Cooking, cleaning, driving, dealing with sometimes awkward Thanksgiving family dynamics (I suppose that can be said for anyone on this list).

So, you might ask, why am I already 500 words into this post? It’s a valid question. Maybe it’s because I promised to write weekly. Maybe it’s because the office is quiet right now and I can’t answer another email or continue working on bigger projects. Call it being committed, or stubborn, or even procrastination.

I say it’s because I’m thankful. I’m thankful you are only reading this because you want to this week. And to add cheesy to the list, I’m also just thankful for you. Thankful that your family is in town, or you are going to them. or that you have friends to gather with. Thankful that you get a chance to read whatever you want for a change, or just go see a  movie. I am thankful that you are going to sleep in, or nap on the couch after eating too much. I am thankful that in a fall of tests and elections and deadlines that you can take a step back.

A Time for Reflection

See, the admission process, like life, is filled with looking forward. It’s clogged and clouded with impending deadlines, decision release dates, campus visit planning, and the list goes on. But this week… this week is an oasis, a respite. It’s about reflection. It’s about sitting still for a minute and ruminating and considering. 

I’m not trying to give you homework.. but I do hope you’ll consider using a little of your downtime to brighten the week of those around you. How?

Who has helped you to this point? Who has written a recommendation letter for you, or helped you edit your essays?  Who has given you some good advice on where to apply (or where not to)?

Amidst the frenzy of the fall, we often forget to thank these people. Sure, maybe in passing or in a text, but really,  I mean really, say thanks.  I encourage you to recognize these people with a hug, or a jubilant high five, or an actual hand written, postage stamped note. Even a genuinely heartfelt email will do the trick. To make it easier for you, feel free to copy-paste or edit the following statement as needed: “Hey {name}. Thanks for writing that rec letter. I know you are crazy busy and you have written a ton this year. Whether I get into {college name} or not, I really appreciate your time and willingness to support me.”

A Note to Seniors
Mom and dad need some love too. Fall of your senior year is not easy on them. They’re excited for you, but they’re nervous. And despite what they might say, it’s not all about where you are going to get in or how much it will cost. They know a year from now you’ll be on a college campus somewhere. Maybe they don’t know exactly where, but they know you won’t be at home. Don’t let their plans to convert your room to an office or guest room fool you. Their hearts are breaking a little right now, so they could use that same hug and note.

As for me, we’ll be with my wife’s family this week. My folks will be on the opposite side of the country, but I want you to know that I plan to practice what I preach, and am getting out some note cards now.

PS – We’ll get back to Fantasy Football Admission next week with an inside look at The Bench (the Seasonal Readers). Until then, give thanks, friends. Life is good.

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Lessons from the Election

Note: Next week we will get back to talking about fantasy football. But for now we’re calling an audible and saying it’s halftime, because it’s important we deal in reality. And the reality is the last week has been terrible. (How’s that for an intro?)

The dramatic election Tuesday was followed by turbulence and fall out on social media, in personal conversations, and in the press. I have had a lifetime of preparation for this kind of division. See, I grew up in a split household. My mom is about as liberal as they come: raised in the northeast by parents who both worked at Princeton, she took us to help at a homeless shelter as soon as we were old enough to volunteer. She is pro-choice, advocates for gay rights, and will be in Washington for the Women’s March in January. Conversely, my dad was raised by a widowed hairdresser, served in Vietnam, and ran his own small business until he sold it a few years ago. Fiscally conservative and socially conservative, his motto is “keep the government out of my business.”

When we were kids, they’d come to the breakfast table on Election Day, raise their coffee cups and say, “Okay, let’s go cancel each other out.” Their differences extend well past politics. She’s an extrovert, while he’s an introvert. He loves the beach and the sun, and she would be happy if it never warmed up past 75 degrees. They are the first hit when you search Wikipedia for “opposites attract.”

Their marriage has not always been easy. But I always saw effort, forgiveness, and an acknowledgment of their own faults. And that’s what led to reconciliation.

A House Divided…

This election was filled with some of the most divisive rhetoric of any in modern American history.  And those lines have only been reinforced as the pollsters and press dissect how America voted: urban vs. rural, black vs. white, rich vs. poor, educated vs. uneducated. Regardless of who, if anyone, you supported, emotions are swirling: surprise, excitement, bemusement, vindication, fear, or some combination of these and many others.

In 1858 Abraham Lincoln addressed his Republican colleagues in reference to the pressing issue of slavery and said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” In talking and listening to friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, and random people on the train, the concern for our nation is palpable. There seems to be a dearth of empathy and a plethora of anxiety; an abundance of fear of the future;  a lack of faith in the inevitability of unity; not to mention a lot of finger pointing and too little hand shaking.

Certainty in Uncertain Times

In uncertain times, there is solace in remembering some things have NOT changed, and recalling the things you can count on in the future.  As election season gives way to admission decision season, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Things are going to happen in life that you did not “vote for,” and that you cannot control. You may be denied or deferred from the college you really wanted to attend. Or you may get in to your dream school but not get a financial package that you can afford. If (or more likely when) one of these things happen, it’s understandable that you may need a week to cry, scream, mope, curse, or question. But ultimately, you have to shake that off. Keep working and have confidence in yourself. And it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t do that alone. Share your frustrations with friends and family, but also lean on them, listen to them, and learn from them as you move forward.

You will see someone get in who you don’t think is the “right” or “most qualified” person. We see and hear this every year in the admission process. “Well, they only got in because they are <<insert group here>>, or from <<insert school or state here>>.” “She got that scholarship because she’s  X (or had a Y) and I didn’t because I’m Z.” Broad generalizations like these are essentially saying  “Well, that’s the way THEY are.” And that, my friends, is divisiveness. I think it’s important to note that Lincoln’s speech was quoting from the Bible. In the original text, the “house” was not a not a nation but a person’s soul and character. Open your laptop, check a few trending hashtags, or go sit on a park bench and listen. You’ll see why those types of broad categorizing statements are toxic. Saying it’s a slippery slope is not even accurate–this is a cliff you tumble off, taking the character and achievements you’ve worked so hard to build and throwing them into an abyss.

I’m coming out of the fog and muck of last week. I have an advantage by working at a college. Walking across campus yesterday, listening to conversations in the dining hall, and sitting down to talk with students from all over the nation and the world has brought me much needed encouragement.

What Awaits You in College

I can’t tell you which campaign promises will be kept or abandoned or adapted. But what is certain, and what I hope provides you great excitement and optimism, is what awaits you in your college experience.

  1. College will continue to be a place that seeks students who want to learn. Students who ask why and how; who want to make the world around them now and in the future better, safer, and more interesting.
  2. College will continue to be a place that draws students with diverse thoughts, passions, and interests. Students who commit to one another; who seek to understand one another; who know that learning from their differences and tapping into everyone’s strengths and talents will allow them to collectively solve problems.
  3. College will continue to be a place that cheers together in athletic victory, cries together in campus tragedies, studies together in the wee hours of the morning, and ultimately embraces each other on graduation stages and in life well beyond its gates.

Wedged between election season and admission decision season is Thanksgiving. I hope you will use this time as a respite; a time to be reminded of and surrounded by the things and people who bring you rest, joy, and assurance.

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Breaking Down the Admission Team: Week 2: Offensive Line

In Fantasy Football, you score with skill positions, like quarterbacks and running backs. But we all know that in order for a player to succeed, he must have a group on the line blocking, working, and grinding every play. They don’t garner the spotlight, the headlines, or the score sheet, but make no mistake, the offensive line is the very heartbeat of the team.

And that is absolutely true of the phenomenal women and men who work in operations around the nation in admission. They don’t stand up on stages and deliver impassioned speeches about the school. They are not usually the ones talking with visitors. Their pictures aren’t prominently displayed on websites or publications. But day in and day out, they are moving the proverbial ball forward.

Back in the Day….

A decade ago or so ago basically all information that came into an admission office was via mail. I distinctly remember mail time. Back then we would literally wait for the truck to pull into the driveway. We’d have letter openers in hand and big tables nearby where we’d open, sort, and file documents for applications. Ultimately, those documents would be placed into folders (think dentist’s offices), and either delivered to counselors’ offices or placed on big sliding shelves in the mail room (think ELF, minus the dancing) for review. When supplementary information would arrive, operations staff would find the file, match the documents, and update the counselor. Besides the physical sorting, there was also a ton of data entry to do, including everything from social security numbers to addresses to test scores.

Fast Forward to Now…

These days schools have converted to reading applications on screens. Applications are submitted online, and transcripts either accompany that submission or come in via another electronic medium. But even now, admission offices are by no means completely paperless. Last year we received about 15,000 hard copy documents, including transcripts, recommendation letters, citizenship documents, school reports and profiles.  We also get a lot of extra information that students (or someone associated with the student) believe will be compelling. These range from projects (think paintings detailing Civil War battles or paper mache volcanoes), to pictures from actors / movie stars / athletes who are recommending students, to attendance records from the 3rd grade, to science reports from middle school.

But the majority of information comes in electronically. Tech works with 14 companies on a regular basis: testing agencies, foreign credit evaluators, application vendors, transcript avenues, etc. Not to mention we had over 6,000 emails last year from students, teachers, and counselors with attachments of documents. So while admission offices nationally may have led to the decline in stock prices for band aids and white out, their work load has not diminished—it’s just the nature of the work and skill sets of these folks has shifted. Big League (too soon?).

What does this mean for you?

I realize we’re getting into the weeds a bit, but this work directly impacts the efficiency and effectiveness in which admission offices operate. Operations folks are the ones who are updating your online checklists, your applications for residency, verifying transcript receipt, and confirming test score accuracy. They spend a lot of time doing quality control—making sure YOUR application contains YOUR grades, recommendations, and test scores, even though each of those may have been sent from a different source. Sound fun? This is what it takes to play on the Offensive Line. I’m telling you, these workers are the epicenter of every admission office in this country.

Any smart quarterback knows that he better take his offensive line out for steaks once a month and buy them some good Christmas gifts or he’s going to end up on the ground a lot more. So here are a few ways you can help yourself as you work with Operations Teams around the country.

Apply First. Test scores are very easy to match to applications. But when students send other things early (whether that be transcripts or immunizations form kindergarten) we don’t really have a mechanism for holding and matching. Think of your application as the cornerstone of a building. Everything is contingent and hooked to that foundation.

One and Done. If your counselor sends a transcript via Naviance or Common App or another electronic company, please don’t also mail, email, fax and carrier pigeon that to us to “be sure we have it.” You are just clogging up the system and adding processing time to your file and others. Schools give processing windows (messages saying it will be 2-3 weeks or 7-10 days before your online checklist will reflect receipt) for a reason. We have not yet found a way to bend the space-time continuum, so trust that timeline, check back, and take action if it’s not been received. We get that you are nervous about deadlines and being complete, but if 30,000 other applicants (and adding in eager parents, make that 90,000 people) are all calling, emailing, and showing up in person, you can understand the inefficiency that creates.

Know Your Name. Be sure you list the same first, last, middle name on your test scores, transcripts, and application. You may not love that your formal name is William, but using that on your application and “Willy B” on your SAT is going to lead to matching nightmares on our end. We find this issue particularly problematic for international students. We will call you whatever you want when you arrive on campus, but let’s keep it formal and official in the application process.

Go Green. Let’s work to save the world one transcript or recommendation letter at a time. If your school or county is not yet sending documents electronically, put pressure on them to rectify that. This is not a vendetta against the US Postal Service but the bottom line is electronic documents are easier to handle, match, upload, process and read.

Shout Out!

One of the very best in the business talking about “all things operations” is David Graves at UGA. Dr. Graves is the Senior Associate Director there and does a phenomenal job talking about things specific to UGA but also applicable info on test scores and tips for working with processing offices within admission. Follow him on Twitter: @drgravesUGA.

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Breaking Down the Admission Team: Week 1: Defense/Special Teams

I’ve written before about our office’s Fantasy Football league. At one point,  everyone was working at Tech, but now many are now at other schools, or other departments around campus. The weekly match-ups bring banter, side bets, entertaining emails, and group texts with heckling emojis.

If you have played Fantasy Football, you know that while a game may occasionally be won or lost due to one player, championship teams are those that have balance and strength across all positions.  You can limp through the season with a good kicker and running back but that inconsistent tight end will eventually lead to your demise.

The strength of a team is equally important in college admission. Over the next few weeks I’m going to walk you around our office and introduce you to our team. Who does what, and when, and why? While admission offices, just like Fantasy Football leagues, are set up differently, the concepts and roles, as well as the challenges and advice, we’ll cover are applicable at any place you’re applying to or visiting.

The Communications Center (aka Defense/Special Teams)

If you call our main phone number (404.894-4154) or email our primary address (, you are going to reach our lead staffer, and Tech alum Katie Ruth Landers ’09  or one of our current students. We employ around 10 students, and two or three of those will be working at any given time in the Comm Center (“Calm” Center). They provide help on everything from “I’m driving down 85 and see Georgia Tech but think I missed my exit,” to “My transcript was sent a week ago and I don’t see it in the checklist.” 

This group does a phenomenal job. They have full access to our student information system, so they can see all documents and assist with functional application questions. Beyond that,  they can discuss campus life and student-centered questions from a very current perspective. They field approximately 90% of the calls and emails that come in, which keeps our admission counselors available for recruitment travel in the early fall and spring, and application review in the late fall and winter. It’s been said that offense wins games but defense wins championships… in this case that’s 100% accurate.

I know the value of the front lines from personal experience. My first job in college admission was at Wake Forest University. I don’t think I even had a title and I know I didn’t have an office, or even a cube… It was more of a nook.  My job was to answer emails, field phone calls, and occasionally (and I mean very occasionally!) they’d actually let me talk to families that were visiting (as a recent UNC alum, I was basically a last resort). But that training could not have been better for me. I was asked every possible topic under the sun: directions… transfer me to the Chemistry office… does Wake Forest have Psychology… and, naturally, what are my chances of getting in?

The “Calm Center” Checklist

Check the Time.  On average we receive about 1650 emails and 1500 calls each month. That’s about 80-90 of each per work day. Calls from students average 3 minutes, and it’s longer when it’s from a parent (data on parents pretending to be students is not kept). The busiest call day of the week, by far, is Monday. Part of that is catching up from the weekend and part is because people come into the week with a task list and emotions (probably generated from the Sunday Meeting). The heaviest window on a daily basis is between 2  and 4 p.m. We answer every call, even if that means  asking you to hold briefly. We know your question and situation is important, and we do everything we can to ensure you talk to a person who can help quickly. But it’s good to understand their environment lots of lines ringing, emails pinging, etc. Now that you know the heavy windows of traffic, consider reaching out on a Wednesday at 11 a.m. In talking to colleagues nationally, and after reading articles on normal email traffic, this is a normal pattern and thus applicable no matter what school you’re contacting.

Check Yourself. “What do I think the impact of this will be?” Asking this will help you figure out how to phrase your question and determine who you need to talk to. Often, callers realize they’re talking to a current student and then demand to talk to a counselor– even though all they need is to know is if a document has been received or when a decision is going to be available. Folks on the phones all have access to all the same systems. Insisting to be transferred to a full-time staff member only takes that person away from reading your application.

Check The Website. MANY times a day we get calls about information that is online. This becomes particularly heavy around decision release and deadlines. Questions like: “Is the deadline really October 15?” “Are you going to release the decisions any earlier than January?” Every Monday we meet with our Communications Strategy Team. We hear what Katie Ruth is getting in the Comm Center, we talk about websites, publications, emails, social media, etc. If you are reading it and calling to hear a human voice confirm that information (“I see this on your website, but just wanted to see if that’s right..”), I implore you to trust yourself. This also applies to driving. If you come to a stop sign, please read and take heed. Safety first, friends.

Check Your Pulse. The staff and students answering your calls and emails are in place to help you. Remember that when you call. We know that your particular situation is important and we are going to help you solve it, regardless of whether that’s because something appears not to have arrived or you want to know about Greek Life. So before calling take a deep breath. This will help your tone and heart rate simultaneously (a win-win!). The folks on the other end of that call or email, whether or not they’re admission counselors, share the same bathrooms, break rooms, and hallways as the deans, directors, and others who are making decisions on your application. That’s not a threat– that’s reality.

I’ll never forget the time I was hanging out in the Comm Center and someone called and immediately started cussing out one of our students. Professionally and calmly she kept asking him, “Sir. Can I have your daughter’s name please?” Finally, as he was shouting, he gave it to her. “Oh, hey Mr. Johnson. It’s Grace. Yes, from the church youth group.” BAM! Reality check. You never know who may be on the other end of the line… and remember that in a year or two, it may be you (or your student) answering the call and taking the brunt of someone’s anger.

I have said before and will continue to reinforce that admissions is a human process. People applying, people reading, people making decisions, people answering phones and  emails. Following these tips will not only help you get good information quickly but will likely allow you to learn something from the folks on the other end of the phone. After all, a human exchange goes both ways.

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