In higher education, every staff and faculty member plays a part in enrollment management, but there are a handful of people who are absolutely integral. Admissions and enrollment directors drive initiatives that directly contribute to your institution’s bottom line. That’s why it’s business-critical to make sure these team members feel seen, heard, and supported in their careers.
You’ve likely read several essays about the difficulties facing admissions and enrollment directors. Articles like The Great Disillusionment and Why Good Enrollment Managers Are So Hard to Find highlight the challenges and resulting burnout they experience. COVID-19 introduced unprecedented obstacles for college leaders, pushing many of them to join the The Great Resignation. However, in reality, the enrollment challenges schools face have always been present. COVID merely underscored and exacerbated the barriers to meeting enrollment goals.
Pandemic aside, there are various reasons why admissions and enrollment leaders choose to leave. From political and economic factors, to a changing workforce and shifting student demographics, to increased competition and unrealistic goals, those in this important role experience a lot of unpredictability. But there’s another, less talked about reason why admissions and enrollment directors choose to walk away: their position can be the busiest, yet loneliest place to be.
But there’s another, less talked about reason why admissions and enrollment directors choose to walk away: their position can be the busiest, yet loneliest place to be.
These managers often find themselves pulled in many directions. They answer to executive leadership while leading and developing others; they enroll, advise, and nurture students as well as manage the culture of the admissions department. On top of marketing and administrative duties, it’s easy to see how one job can snowball into multiple roles.
This is a tough position for any institution to fill and retain, but there are many things you can do to help mitigate fatigue and burnout while keeping your admissions leader, and subsequently, your admissions team, positive, inspired, and ready to work.
1. Let them lead
It sounds easy, but this is often the number one reason why admissions and enrollment directors choose to leave. By not delegating tasks, you overburden yourself while disempowering your directors. Your colleagues have a collective wealth of knowledge about recruitment and your institution. Entrust them with their skills and allow your admissions leaders to develop and lead enrollment initiatives.
2. Show your support
Schedule consistent, dedicated one-on-one time where most of your focus is on how you can support your admissions director. As a busy executive, it is understandable that your schedule is hectic, but don’t make a habit of cancelling or rescheduling meetings with your direct reports. Eventually that could make them feel like less of a priority, which may lead to disengagement.
3. Foster growth
Allow your enrollment directors and their team to grow through professional development opportunities like conferences, webinars, and networking events. As with any job, the daily responsibilities of an admissions director can be monotonous, and a change of pace and chance to learn positively impacts enrollment while boosting morale.
4. Praise first, constructive feedback second
Feedback is critical when it comes to enrollment management and achieving results, but so is praise. Admissions can have its ups and downs, especially when it comes to reaching goals, but there’s always something to be proud of. It’s important to ensure your directors feel recognized for their hard work.
5. Avoid projecting
It’s hard to escape stress in just about any career, and it can be easy to project that stress onto subordinates. It’s best to keep emotions out of your enrollment initiatives. Protect your directors from seeing the behind-the-scenes drama that comes with decision-making.
6. Collaborate and listen
While executive leadership typically sets enrollment goals, it’s critical to involve admissions directors when establishing budgets. They know what’s realistically possible, and what resources their team needs for success. Further, ensure you work together to set clear targets and develop effective measurement tools that not only keep the admissions team accountable and on track, but offer a guide for two-way communications with staff about what is (or may not be) working.
7. Shine a light
Ensure other departments and leaders at your institution know about the admissions team’s accomplishments. Send email praise, give shout-outs in meetings, and reward your team publicly for their good work. A little recognition goes a long way for morale.
8. Compensate competitively
Budgets are tight, but responsibilities are many. Your director’s compensation should reflect that. When you can’t give yearly raises, look for other ways to compensate your director and admissions team—time off, free lunches, gift cards, or flexible schedules (including telecommuting options).
9. Encourage passion projects
Tap into your team’s natural talents and interests that directly connect to their role. Give your directors a chance to lead those initiatives and make sure they have all the resources they need for success. For instance, many enrollment directors started as recruiters and love that work. Give them time to enroll a small population of students. That way, they can keep a pulse on why students are (or aren’t) choosing your institution while pursuing a personal interest.
10. Invest in everyone
Student recruitment best practices are constantly evolving, making it vital to ensure your director and admissions team have the latest tools and resources they need. When planning your yearly budget, set aside funds for learning and professional development. In addition to conferences and webinars, consider investing in your directors and their team with customized admissions training. Multi-day, immersive, and interactive training can be one of the best investments your institution will make in its staff and one that will pay dividends in more conversions and happier team members.
Admissions leaders represent your school’s enrollment department, and carry a substantial amount of responsibility on their shoulders. If you have a dedicated and driven enrollment director, make an investment that pays off by giving them your time, support, and room to grow.
If you have a dedicated and driven enrollment director, make an investment that pays off by giving them your time, support, and room to grow.
In addition to customized admissions training and support, our experienced team offers higher education consulting services, marketing, content development, advertising, and more. If you’re looking for a partner that will take a deep dive with you and holistically support your institution in order to improve enrollment conversions, let’s connect.