Same Kind of Different, Part 2

This week we welcome Director of Communications for Enrollment Management, Becky Tankersley, to the blog. Welcome, Becky!

Listen to “Same Kind of Different, Part Two (Lets Talk Communication!) – Becky Tankersley” on Spreaker.

Let’s do a quick exercise: imagine its admission decision release day. You worked for weeks to prepare. You’ve collaborated with a variety of people to be sure you completed every action item on your list. Now you’re online, eagerly checking Reddit and College Confidential to see what other people are saying. You may be sending frantic texts or emails to others who are also waiting, making sure there isn’t something you overlooked (even though you know for a fact you’ve checked everything at least a dozen times). You wait… you watch… until the clock hits noon and the decision is released.

Sound familiar? What I just described is decision release day from an admission or enrollment communicator’s point of view!

Just as a tremendous amount of work goes into reviewing admission applications, a tremendous amount of work goes into the communications behind those decisions. In Same Kind of Different, Rick talks about the time and energy spent by his staff in reading applications (and I can confirm that YES, he’s being honest when he says EVERY application is read by an actual human, often multiple times).

The Communications Conduit

Our communications team does not read your application, but we do serve as the conduit between the admission team and you. Our staff writes your emails and letters, creates and updates websites, designs mailers and flyers, and generally keeps the communication train moving. Preparing communications for decision release is not unlike you preparing your admission essay: we write the first draft. We review it with admission. They make edits. We make revisions. We send it back and forth anywhere from 2-10 times.

Making a list, checking it twice (or twenty times)…

After it’s final, it THEN goes to our editor in Institute Communications to ensure it makes sense to someone outside of the admission world (after you’ve lived and breathed admission for several years, not to mention read something 100+ times, it takes an outside perspective to ensure admission jargon doesn’t creep in and those pesky typos and/or broken links are caught). They review. We edit. Once that’s complete, we upload the final version into your admission portal. And guess what? Then we review it again!

Letters, portals, emails, forms, websites, FAQ pages, print pieces. I’ve been involved with decision release for almost a decade, and the importance of the moment has not yet diminished.

Watching and Waiting

During the week before decision release, we watch Reddit, College Confidential, and hashtags on social media (I confirm what you suspect—we are watching!). What are you seeing? What are you saying? Every year we see applicants frantically search for any little sign that might indicate a decision. A fourth tab in a portal? A Pay Now button? An email from financial aid? Just as you are constantly checking and digging, we’re constantly listening and reviewing until decisions are out. Your online chatter helps us identify any gaps we may have missed.

It’s not lost on us that every little thing makes a difference. We see the tension and anxiety many of you experience. Your work has all led up to this moment. It turns out we’re not that different. While you anxiously wait for a decision, we anxiously wait for you to receive that decision. We’re aiming for a smooth process for you… one that is clear, transparent, and gives you all the information you need, avoiding confusion along the way.

Nowhere Near the End…

At this point in the year, most admission decisions are out from schools around the nation. While you may not have received all the admission decisions you hoped for, there’s no doubt you’ve gotten in somewhere (likely many somewheres!) amazing.

Getting in is a big accomplishment… but it’s nowhere near the end of your journey. So, what happens now?

Finish the drill.

You’ll find your email inbox incredibly full over the next month, and it’s imperative that you read what we send! Your admission application was just the beginning… now that you’re “in,” there is a litany of next steps to complete. Deposit deadlines, financial aid completion, housing, orientation, learning communities, visit events, meet and greets… these are only a few examples of the communications you will receive. Read the emails from the schools where you’ve been admitted, and regularly check your applicant portal as well.

Pay attention to dates.

As mentioned above, many of the communications you will receive are time sensitive. And, while inconvenient, the deadlines vary from school to school. Not only is there variance from school to school, you’ll see differences at the same school from year to year (for example, last year Tech’s deposit deadline was May 1, and this year it’s May 3).

Don’t assume the deadlines that applied to your sibling or friend who got in a year ago are the same deadlines you have, especially since we’re all still operating amid a pandemic. Read the information, and pay attention to the dates. Inside tip: any school with a CRM (customer relationship management) can see what emails you’ve opened, and which ones you didn’t. If you miss a deadline and say “I didn’t receive/see that email,” well, it’s not going to hold any weight when we see that you 1) received it, and 2) opened it.

Yes, it matters!

After you’ve done the work to apply, be admitted, and pay a deposit to commit, following the steps above still matter. We know your inbox is overloaded. I promise we try not to make it worse! Be assured that the communications we send to you are mission critical. Our job is to be sure you to know what is next, what opportunities are available, and the deadlines looming on the horizon. So, don’t slack off now! You paid attention before you were admitted, and it’s even more important that you pay attention now.

A Tip of the Hat

Communication teams typically don’t receive the same attention that admission and financial aid teams do. After all, those offices are the boots on the ground, talking personally to students and families from year to year, creating relationships and adding the personal touch.

But standing quietly in the background are communicators making sure the information you receive is clear, understandable, useful, and most importantly, correct. From web developers to information technologists, marketing specialists to editors, graphic designers to mail house teams, there are many people working behind the scenes to get the job done.

So, here’s to you, campus communicators! The work you do matters, and admission, recruitment, and enrollment couldn’t happen without the work you do. Thank you!

Becky Tankersley has worked in higher education for more than a decade in a variety of roles in admission and enrollment management. Before starting her career in education, she worked as a television news producer. Her current role blends her skills in communication and love of college recruitment. Becky is the editor of the GT Admission Blog, and also serves as a Content Coordinator for the American Association of Collegiate Registrar and Admission Officers.

Author: Rick Clark

Rick Clark is the Director of Undergraduate Admission at Georgia Tech. He has served on the SACAC Governing Board, the ACT Council, and the College Board Search Advisory Board. He is a current member of a NACAC’s Committee on Leadership in College Admission, and Past Chair of both the national Government Relations Committee and Georgia Tech’s Staff Council. Rick travels annually to U.S. embassies through the Department of State to discuss the admission process and landscape of higher education. He is the co-author of the forthcoming book The Truth about College Admission: A Family Guide to Getting In and Staying Together. A native of Atlanta, he earned a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a M.Ed. from Georgia State University. Prior to coming to Tech, Rick was on the admissions staff at Georgia State, The McCallie School and Wake Forest University. @clark2college