#WCUPresidentialShadow: A Day in the Life of an Admissions Counselor

Admissions Counselor 1

President Fiorentino speaks to high school students touring WCU, with, from left, Sarah Smith, student ambassador tour guide Jake Moscato, and Colleen Bustin.

WCU currently has 1,432 permanent employees - 645 faculty members and 787 staff. Some of these jobs -- like assistant professor of economics and college dean - I know a lot about because I have held these roles at the University. But we also have electricians, accountants, librarians, psychologists and counselors, architectural designers, a director of intramural and club sports, even a fulltime piano technician for our collection of 118 Steinway pianos.

While I have a general sense of what these employees do, I couldn't rattle off a detailed list of their day-to-day responsibilities. Which is why I've created the #WCUPresidentShadow program. Just like WCU Shadows provides students with an opportunity to learn about different careers by shadowing alumni on the job, #WCUPresidentShadow will allow me to drill down and learn the ins and outs of many different jobs at the University. Even more importantly, I believe these shadowing experiences will give me insight into the unique challenges of each position, and help me determine how to best support every unit and division.

Throughout the coming academic year, I'll be shadowing a number of employees - don't be surprised if I call and ask to spend a day with you. You can nominate yourself or someone else to be shadowed by sending me an email at



For this premiere edition of #WCUPresidentShadow, I chose to shadow two high-energy individuals who ensure that the rest of us continue to stay busy - Sarah Smith, senior assistant director of admissions and special events, and Colleen Bustin, admissions counselor for out-of-state recruitment. After all, without them and their 19 colleagues in the Office of Admissions, we wouldn't have 17,000 students to teach, counsel, mentor, feed, entertain, and otherwise support.

Admissions Counselor 2

West Chester University received more than 14,000 applications for the fall 2017 first-year class, which will be comprised of 2,550 students. Smith, Bustin or another Admissions representative interacted with each one of these 14,000 individuals. Factoring in transfer applications, Admissions reviews more 19,000 admissions applications annually. Many of the applications have multiple reads, equating to a workload volume of more than 35,000 applications.

Consider, too, that the application is the very end of the process. Admissions begins the relationship with prospective students much earlier, with contact over the phone, online chat sessions, in-person meetings, and at college fairs in small high school gyms and in cavernous conference venues.

The Main Line College Fair is one of the biggest of these events and it's held in mid-May, when Admissions staffers probably are ready to get off the road after a steady stream of overnight trips throughout the year. After all, WCU's 11 Admissions directors and counselors, under the direction of Executive Director of Admissions Marsha Haug, visited more than 350 high schools this year and participated in more than 390 college programs, fairs, and transfer days. These events took place in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and Connecticut.

The Main Line College Fair is held on the campus of event co-sponsor Villanova University, and that's where Smith, Bustin and I found ourselves the Monday after WCU's Commencement Weekend. If Smith or Bustin were fatigued after a busy year of recruitment, they didn't show it.

I arrived about a half-hour before the event began and watched as Smith and Bustin set up the WCU table - not much bigger than a card table and sandwiched in-between Western Michigan and Wesleyan universities. This was the calm before the storm, as admissions reps fussed with their display boards, exchanged greetings with each other, or nibbled on snacks.

Admissions Counselor 3

When the doors opened at 6:30 p.m., it was much like a "doorbuster" sale on Black Friday. No one pushed or shoved, but an eager stampede of students and parents came charging down the corridor. Smith and Bustin engaged with every student and parent, answering their questions fully yet never allowing others to wait too long and grow frustrated. The line at the WCU table was three to four people deep for a solid hour and included parents and students, groups of students who came on busses organized by their schools, and even one 8th grader off to an early start in his college exploration.

What struck me the most is how much our Admissions counselors need to know about WCU.

So is it hard to get into the School of Business?

What's the acceptance rates into professional schools for your pre-med major?

I plan to major in music theory and composition. Will I need to audition?

Do you have a reading minor?

I want to be a dietitian but I heard I will need to do a semester-long internship. What's that about?

Can undergraduates do research?

Smith and Bustin answered every question that came their way, and before each student departed, encouraged them to sign in on iPads. By the end of the week, every student who had shared contact info was sent a follow-up email, and their data was loaded into WCU's customer relationship management (CRM) database.

Another thing that struck me was how unscripted and comfortable our Admissions reps' conversations were. No matter how many times Smith or Bustin may have answered the same question, they always seemed to be enjoying themselves and their enthusiasm never flagged.

Admissions Counselor 4

College fair season is over - for now - but Admissions is already in its second week of summer tours. These 90-minute tours are offered four times a day, five days a week. And Smith, Bustin and their colleagues are getting ready for Admissions events here on our campus come fall, including Fall Preview Days, Check Us Out Day for multicultural students, bus visits from school groups, and more. In all, Admissions welcomes almost 20,000 visitors to campus each year.

As for my stint as an Admissions counselor, conditions were so crowded at the Main Line College Fair that I mostly hung back and let Smith and Bustin do their job. I often served as a traffic cop, motioning students to the table when there was an open spot. I had a chance to respond to a question or two and am happy to report that I didn't get stumped. However, I must admit that I would have been hard-pressed to answer all of the questions fielded by Smith and Bustin.

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