When I was a high school student visiting colleges and universities I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was a first generation college student and just the idea of going to college was both overwhelming and exciting. During a visit to Indiana University (which I eventually attended for my undergraduate education) the admissions counselor I talked with after the group information session asked me which career field I was interested in. Dazzled by her energy and enthusiasm for the institution, I told her that I wasn’t sure, but I thought it would be fun to be an admissions counselor!
During my second year of college I was away at a leadership retreat when we were going around the room announcing the usual (name, hometown, major, what you want to be when you grow up). I still had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up, so when it became my turn I said, “Kylie Stanley… LaPorte, IN… English and Political Science… and I have no idea what I want to be, but I am pretty sure I never want to leave college.” One of the staff leaders responded, “I have the perfect field for you, talk to me after group.” Later he told me about higher education administration and about all the ways I could work for a college or university.
Fast forward about five years. I graduated from an amazing public flagship university. I received my master’s from the top ranked education school in the nation (Peabody College at Vanderbilt University). Now, I am an admissions counselor at one of the best national universities in the country.
When I hear those in popular media call admissions counselors “gatekeepers”, it makes me think they really don’t get who we are as individuals. Every single one of my colleagues has an equally inspiring story about how they came to work here, and all of us run into high school students that remind us of ourselves not too long ago.
You have to do your part as an applicant (i.e. get good grades, proofread your essays, ask individuals for letters of recommendation), but know that we are not standing on the other side of the gate trying to keep you out. More accurately, we’re on the same side as you, adding a bit of manpower to help you open it.