Augsburg University in Minneapolis elected to admit all of its students through direct admissions this year, reflecting a culture shift and a new operational model at the institution.
Admissions counselors, traditionally the spokespeople for the university in enticing a student to apply and enroll, are shifting from their role from transactional to more of a student success coach, says Robert Gould, vice president for strategic enrollment management at Augsburg.
Called Augsburg Applies to You, the direct admissions process only requires students to meet a certain GPA, according to the university’s website.
The move is designed to create access as well as promote a deeper sense of belonging for learners, Gould says. “It was a real intentional shift to try to create it so that we can build deeper relationships with students.”
A paradigm change: Augsburg developed a success coaching curriculum based on goal modeling to create a hierarchy of priorities for the student. The role is part executive coaching, part athletics coaching and part college-access coaching, Gould says.
Augsburg counselors had a caseload of around 40 students this first year. The counselors reach out to students upon admission with a personalized video, pulling information from their file and asking the student to complete an intake form and reach back out for a second interaction over email, Zoom or in person.
Then, counselors help students identify their immediate goals and offer suggestions related to their enrollment at Augsburg, weighing financial and academic goals.
“We try to take a student when they come in the intake process, and just without any agenda of our own, ask them where their goals are today,” Gould says.
The admissions officers do not stay with the student during their first year but pass off information to colleagues via the institution’s retention database to kick-start resources for professors and staff.
“We’re not considering ourselves retention officers,” Gould clarifies. “But we are trying to focus on if we can get all those other things out that used to cloud the process and we can develop a deeper relationship.”
Operational flow: Changing how counselors work has been a challenge, Gould admits.
“Counselors in the recruitment phase are about relationship, but it’s a different relationship … more about representing an institution,” he explains. “So the tone and the dialogue is much different.”
With the new model, counselors are empowered to tell students that Augsburg might not be the best fit for them—to “help a student find out the answer, not to tell them the answer,” Gould says.
“We have to be a little bit more willing to stretch about how to create a relationship, because it's not the same for every student,” Gould says. “That just takes loving kindness … tapping into that, as a counselor, is not as easy as you would think, because you’re really trying to tap yourself into it and pull back on more of the spokesperson role that recruiters have.”
Rather than admissions counselors processing student transcripts, the operations team works through the 4,000 submissions, something that’s been a positive change at this point, Gould shares.
Under evaluation: Augsburg streamlined its direct admissions process this past fall and will welcome its full first class through direct admissions in fall 2023.
So far, the admissions side has seen positive increases in typically underrepresented students among those making deposits to become part of the incoming class. Deposits from students of color were up 11 percentage points, Pell Grant recipients’ deposits rose 13 percentage points and deposits from male students increased seven percentage points compared to the year prior. How that translates into retention remains to be seen.
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