Higher Ed Professional Development: Conferences vs. Admissions Training

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“Should I invest in sending my admissions team to higher ed conferences or in custom in-person training?”

We’ve been asked this question a few times by higher ed leaders and our answer is always this—there are benefits to both types of professional development, but the outcomes of each can be very different. Ultimately, the answer lies within the desired goals for your team. Are you looking for long-term improvements to your team’s performance or short-term morale boosters and knowledge about your competition and industry resources?

Spending many years in higher education—on the front lines of recruitment, leading admissions teams, and serving our clients—we’ve learned a thing or two about the importance of effective professional development. Burnout and poor performance of admissions professionals are realities faced by enrollment leaders, and one critical way to combat these challenges is to invest in opportunities for learning and growth. While many leaders try to facilitate training themselves, the constant, daily pressures of enrollment make it difficult to find time to regularly and properly coach staff. Thus, many look for opportunities to partner with companies that offer training programs and/or national organizations that provide access to conferences and other types of professional development.

While there are a variety of learning opportunities available for admissions teams, it is important to understand the benefits and outcomes of attending higher ed conferences or partnering with companies that offer custom in-person instruction.

Benefits of higher ed conferences.

In higher ed, we are fortunate to have access to many organizations that offer various professional development opportunities, including webinars, workshops, and conferences. NACAC (National Association for College Admission Counseling) and NAGAP (The Association for Graduate Enrollment Management), for example, are specifically known for their annual conferences that give attendees opportunities to connect with resources that assist in career growth and meet vendors who serve the higher ed industry. Attending a conference also allows for networking with other admissions professionals and leaders across the country, providing access to new information and best practices.

In addition to the lasting effects new knowledge and networking can bring, attending higher ed conferences can have positive short-term benefits. Fellowship and engagement are a big part of the recipe for success of conferences, and attendees typically leave feeling rejuvenated and energized—thus leading to an increase in morale, and in some cases, productivity. Additionally, joining organizations like NAGAP or NACAC allows members access to professional development opportunities throughout the year such as webinars and workshops.

Benefits of custom in-person training.

The benefits of custom in-person training are many—improved performance, higher morale, and increased job satisfaction. The positive effects of an in-depth, multi-day, interactive training session can last for years to come. Many admissions professionals can quickly recall the training they received early on in their careers that helped shape their recruitment philosophy and techniques.

Higher ed recruiting can be challenging work. Admissions professionals are responsible for developing effective relationships with and meeting the needs of a diverse population of prospective adult learners, all while focusing on achieving enrollment goals through recruiting quality students. Training allows for an opportunity to step away from that daily grind and recalibrate—and in many cases, reimagine efforts to enroll more students. Investing in custom in-person instruction of an admissions team ultimately benefits the results that matter—enrollments—but can also strengthen teamwork through a better understanding of team goals and how to reach them. This understanding can create a happier, more successful team and provide a positive path toward meeting goals.

Every admissions team is different, and every institution offers a unique set of strengths and challenges when it comes to recruiting nontraditional learners. In other words, no two admissions teams are alike, which means a “one size fits all” approach to training may not always work. When looking for instruction opportunities, partner with an organization that has developed a proven admissions training program that can be customized for staff experience levels, degree programs represented, student demographics, institution brand messaging, and conversion goals. Choosing a training partner can be one of the most important decisions an enrollment leader makes so it is critical to take time to research and select the right program that will fully meet the needs of frontline recruiting staff.

The takeaway.

Invest in your team. Effective in-depth training will help your admissions team achieve enrollment goals while also benefitting your staff’s morale and retention. When planning your budget, be sure to allocate funds for professional development opportunities that provide short-term gains such as conferences, as well as ongoing, custom, in-person training programs that deliver long-term impact. Your team will thank you, and so will your bottom line. If you are looking to improve your team’s conversions through admissions training and professional development, or with any of Rivetica’s marketing, admissions, or academic solutions, we’d love to talk!