On the Road: Admissions of Travels
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 17, 2013 14:02
They’re the college equivalent of baseball scouts, trolling high schools all over the world in search of gifted minds and unusual talents, hoping to convince them to sign with team Lafayette.
Admissions officers do more than pour over applications and interview prospective students. They travel all over the globe, marketing Lafayette to diverse populations. Admissions officers can be on the road for weeks at a time, recruiting students in numerous states and countries. Officers plant the Lafayette flag spreading news of Lafayette’s existence.
“One of my colleagues has been on the road for eleven weeks,”Director of Admissions Matt Hyde said. “He went from Salt Lake City to Istanbul, recruits in the Southwest, upstate New York, and in Latin America. [Admissions officers] have been to Africa, all over Asia, and all across the country.”
While Lafayette possesses some name recognition in the tri-state area, it is not so well known in other parts of the country. “The admissions team is making a strong and concerted effort to generate a buzz for Lafayette in geographic areas that currently exist as secondary and tertiary markets for building our applicant pool,” Hyde said. For instance, Admissions currently focuses on students in the South, Midwest, and West. “California is a growing market for us, because the high-school student population demographic is booming [there],” Hyde said. “We now have a senior member of our admissions team living and working on the West Coast full time.”
Lafayette’s anonymity in some areas can be difficult obstacle to overcome. Admissions Counselor Conner Woods ‘11 frequently visits prestigious private high schools in Louisiana. He reported many of his visits at such high schools were poorly attended. Woods attributes this low turnout to Louisiana students mistaking Lafayette College for University of Louisiana at Lafayette, an instate option that he believes may not be very popular among Louisiana private school students.
Throughout their travels, admissions officers are expected to cater and relate to students with different lifestyles, cultures, and upbringings. Woods often interviews Alabama students over the phone. While speaking with them, Woods says he can notice the Southern twang in their accents and their regional cultures. “It’s like going out with a political campaign,” Assistant Director of Admissions Carrie Alexander said of recruiting. To get the vote of southern students who love college sports, Woods emphasizes Lafayette’s school spirit.
“For such a small school, we have very powerful school spirit and sports are a big deal for us,” he said. “I note that Lafayette- Lehigh is the oldest running football rivalry in the country.”
Knowing another language can help too. “[Assistant Director of Admissions] Alex Bates travels to Central and South America for Lafayette and he speaks fluent Spanish,” said colleague and Associate Director of Admissions Eugene Gabay. “Fortunately, all of the prospective students we meet around the world speak impeccable English.”
For the enthusiastic globetrotter, being an admissions officer seems an ideal job.
“I got to visit some really cool schools in some really cool places,” Woods said of his travels on the road. Describing a trip to New Orleans, Woods said, “I met some great students at amazing high schools, stuffed myself with delicious food, and toured up and down the French Quarter in the warm early evening twilight.”
The job has allowed Woods, a New Jersey-bred Lafayette alumnus, to see parts of the country he has never seen. Diligent about his work, Woods manages to have fun on trips. An avid New York Giants fan, Woods visited Isidore Newman School in New Orleans, LA. , the high school almamater of the NFL’s Manning brothers. He had the chance to see some Manning high school memorabilia up close and personal. “It was one of the highlights of my first travel season in admissions and all the fellow Giants fans in my life were wrought with jealousy.”
In an age when online advertising is largely taking on the role of recruiter, Hyde insists that old-fashioned human interaction still makes the biggest difference. “Their recruiting matters” said Hyde. “We went to Alaska last year, and guess what? We have a freshman from Alaska now.” The traveling must be paying off. For the Class of 2017, the Admissions Department has received applications from 48 states and 94 countries.