Who are admissions officers?
At the core of it, admissions officers are people—human beings who have preferences and individual interests and happen to work in their institution’s admissions office. Just like you, they’re people with individual interests and hobbies that shape who they are.
While they’re not a monolith, there are common perceptions that aren’t always true. Below are a few things to know about most admissions officers.
Admissions officers aren’t always alumni of the school they represent—and that’s okay!
The role of undergraduate admissions officer has been around for more than 50 years and has since grown into the profession it is today. As such, not every admissions officer necessarily attended the institution for which they work. You’ll occasionally find former students behind college fair tables and giving information sessions, but it is not necessarily the norm. Instead, admissions officers come from all kinds of backgrounds and have all sorts of degrees, not only ones in education.
Just because the admissions officer is not an alum or doesn’t have a degree in education, however, does not mean that they are not knowledgeable about the institution and the admissions process. Through rigorous training, admissions officers learn everything about the institution they represent to provide you the answers you need to apply.
Admissions officers aren’t always from the areas they work with
In most admissions offices, each part of the country and the world is divided into separate geographic “territories” that individual admissions officers travel to and review applications from. While some territories can include entire countries, some colleges parse territories by county, city, or even high school.
Most admissions offices at highly selective colleges like to assign admissions officers to territories they have a connection with. Sometimes they grew up in the territory, maybe they just moved from there, or maybe they covered that territory at a previous job. Either way, there is no guarantee that the admissions officer will be from the territory they work with.
Although admissions officers may not be from their assigned territory, they are still highly capable professionals who learn about the area they cover and advocate for its students throughout the admissions process. Through research, data analysis, visiting the area, and interacting with families and counselors, admissions officers learn the details of each territory. Things like the nuances of high school curricula, popular community organizations, and trends in activities in the region are all subjects admissions officers will be familiar with as a part of learning their territories. So regardless of where you’re from, your admissions officer will be knowledgeable about your area and will use that to review your application within the context of your hometown!
Admissions officers are not Google
If you have questions about their specific institution or applying to college more generally, they are a perfect resource for you to learn more. Just be sure that the questions you have are general enough that admissions officers can answer them. Admissions officers are generalists and know a broad range of information but sometimes not the in-depth knowledge you may be searching for in an answer. Hyper-specific questions like a specific department’s research initiatives or contact information for a professor are best directed toward the department or office that handles the topic you’re asking about.
Admissions officers are just people
In the end, admissions officers are people, just like you. They have personal lives, playlists, and favorite sports teams. Every admissions officer looks for reasons to admit students to build a class rather than deny as many students as possible.
Since admissions officers are people, they also have emotions, too. When a student shares a highly personal and emotional event, admissions officers empathize with the student and feel the emotions of the event just as strongly. They also seek to form connections with the students they work with, whether it’s in person or through the application.
Connecting with their students can sometimes be a challenge, too. Most admissions officers are adults in their 20s and 30s and likely grew up under different circumstances than the generation of students they’re recruiting and advocating for. Despite this, a key part of being an admissions officer is to listen to the needs of their students and meet students where they’re coming from both individually and as a generation. Generation X and Millennials highlighted different issues in their teenage years than Gen Z does today, and it is the admissions officer’s responsibility to understand students’ needs today as best they can.
Regardless of where you are on your college journey, remember that admissions officers are just normal people like you representing an institution you want to attend. Instead of treating them like gatekeepers, see them as someone an ally rooting for you throughout the admissions process.