When people ask what I do for a living, I tell them I am an admissions counselor at Chatfield College. Of course, the next question is usually: what do you do? The quick answer is that the admissions team talks to prospective students about the enrollment process, and helps them make decisions about college that meet their current and future needs. That description sounds simple, but our job is much more than making phone calls and setting appointments for campus tours.
When I started my job at Chatfield, I was already a volunteer with the Clermont County Chamber of Commerce, a carry-over from my days working for a newspaper. The Work Readiness Initiative program in Clermont County has a mission to reach high school students to prepare them for the workplace. This came about because local businesses were becoming concerned about the lack of “soft skills” in the applicants they were interviewing for job positions.
One of the great things about being in admissions at Chatfield is the flexibility our team has in fulfilling our job requirements. When I was hired, I knew immediately that my volunteer role with the Chamber would be right in line with one of our team’s work obligations: visiting the local high schools and meeting the students, guidance counselors, and staff. Building a good relationship with the high schools would be easier since I had met a lot of the College and Career Readiness counselors while volunteering.
The Work Readiness Initiative was developed to reach students with classroom presentations, in collaboration with the teacher, and consists of several weeks of facilitating a course in job and career readiness. Some high schools have a designated time, once a week, in which students go through the course with a group of volunteers from the business community. Each week, a different topic is introduced that expands on the prior week’s session. Topics include: Attitude, Diversity and Respect, Interviewing Skills, Resume Writing, Personal Hygiene and Appearance, Drug and Alcohol Awareness, and others.
I like to facilitate the Diversity and Respect piece as I have had the great fortune to have grown up in a rural area in Brown County, Ohio, and to have lived in several neighborhoods in Cincinnati over a 15 year span. Also, I feel that I can relate to this topic because we have a wonderfully diverse body of people who attend and work at Chatfield College. I feel very strongly that students in high school- who may have had limited experience with groups outside the area where they have grown up- can benefit from meeting others who have experienced a different way of life, and people of other cultures. All of the admissions counselors at Chatfield have different and unique backgrounds, which makes for an interesting collaboration.
Another way that I and my co-workers volunteer is through mentoring. The mentoring sessions are one-on-one with a student who has volunteered to meet with a mentor twice a month for the school year. The agreement can be renewed for consecutive years until the student graduates. During the mentoring sessions we talk about anything that is important to the student. This can include personal issues, grades, driving, ACT testing, jobs, family, friends and more. The point is to be available to the mentee and to be a good role model. I like to start by asking school related questions, then move on to other areas of interest. I always tell my mentee that I am not going to try to tell her what to do with her life, and that I will offer non-biased advice with no judgement. I equate it with being a sort of “aunt” role. I am not their parent, so they feel comfortable talking to me about various things, but I am an adult so I am looked at as having some authority on certain subjects.
Volunteering, of course, helps the admissions team build leads for prospective college students. I talk to my mentees and Work Readiness groups about the fact that I am an admissions counselor, I give them my business card, and I tell them to call me with any questions or concerns they have about college. Mostly, though, I let them know that I care about their future, no matter what they choose to do after high school. Not every student I talk to is interested in Chatfield, or college in general, but that’s okay. As long as we are having a positive conversation about the future, I feel like I have helped that student. The most important thing I tell the students I volunteer with is this: if it is your dream, your intent, your destiny, your goal…whatever you call it, to go to a college or university, then I will help in any way I can. Not because it’s my job, but because I want you to be happy. If you choose not to attend a college or university, and want advice about the work force, then, again, I will help you in any way I can. I want you to be happy. Everything else is secondary.
I am thankful that our admissions team has the opportunity to meet students on their level, and to hopefully help them with difficult decisions. Our job would not be as rewarding if we were only concentrating on how many enrollments we can get for a semester. We really have a personal investment in our students, and in the community, and that makes all the difference. Volunteering in the high schools, reaching out to young adults, and offering our time and commitment is the way to build strong leads for prospective students. Going above and beyond phone calls and campus tours is what makes us a successful admissions team.
-Lee Rose, St. Martin Admissions Counselor