Clearly communication between applicants and admission officers has been on my mind of late given my past few blog posts on the matter. Over the past several weeks I’ve discovered another communication disconnect between admission offices and students; a failure to find a medium on which we can connect. Raised by a Jewish mother who was herself raised by my Jewish grandmother meant no invitation went without an RSVP, no gift went without a thank you note, and no message went unreturned. However, then we had only snail mail and land-line phones. There was no email, no social networking, no cell phones…and before you assume I’m ancient I’m only 29. But man what a difference a decade can make in terms of the means by which teenagers communicate and the mediums open to them. There’s email, Gchat, Facebook, Twitter, College Confidential, text messaging, cell phones, and probably a whole host of other arenas that I’m not even familiar with. Not only are we sometimes unaware of how students prefer to communicate but we are also confined by standards of professionalism and decorum.
For example, we realize that many applicants do not check answering machines or voicemail (often indicated by the fact that many do not record personalized greetings for their voicemails) and many do not check email on a regular basis. We know that Facebook and texting are more instantaneous and popular but we as admission officers cannot leave confidential information (an offer of admission from the waitlist for example) on someone’s Facebook wall and the character limit on text messages would make leaving such a message difficult, not to mention less-than-professional looking. So we still use what might be viewed as stone-age technology (voice messages and emails). Yet oftentimes these messages go unreturned and the messages are often of critical importance to both the school and the student.
Some might say the solution is to reach out to an applicant’s parent(s) but the college search process is a growth opportunity for the student and colleges treat it as such. We purposefully communicate with students about everything from application status to admission to grades and bills because we want students to start asserting their independence and to take responsibility for their lives in such a way as to prepare them for adulthood.
I think that for now, until there’s a happy medium of communication which allows for popularity with students and professionalism and privacy to all intersect, students simply have to commit to checking and responding to voicemail and email. You wouldn’t want to miss an important message from one of us and we’ve found no better way to send it. Please just be responsive. We promise to be waiting by the phone.
– Wendy Livingston