How to Become a Director of Admissions

A person in business attire holds a microphone while speaking to a group.

Concerns about student debt. Shifts in student demographics. Insights into underserved students. The landscape of college admissions is changing, and all schools rely on the expertise of directors of admissions to navigate the changes. These skilled leaders play a crucial role in the growth and sustainability of colleges, universities, and many private schools as well.

Educators interested in a possible career as a director of admissions can benefit from learning about the position’s duties, skill and educational requirements, and salary and job outlook.

The Role of a Director of Admissions

Directors of admissions support the enrollment and recruitment efforts of learning institutions by:

  • Promoting their school
  • Developing strategies to attract prospective students
  • Managing admissions departments
  • Establishing guidelines and requirements for admitting students

Their work often involves assessing and updating the criteria and procedures used for evaluating applications and making decisions about them. Additionally, directors of admissions help potential students determine their eligibility, and they organize as well as oversee recruitment events.

Duties and Responsibilities

Data analysis is a key part of the director of admissions role. To assess and improve the admissions process, directors of admissions analyze data. Doing so helps guide their decisions on issues ranging from how many students to admit to how to meet enrollment targets.

As an example, directors of admissions might examine reports to track applications in the applicant pipeline. If they see large numbers of applications in progress shortly before a deadline, directors of admissions may extend the deadline to help ensure they have enough applications to reach their enrollment goals.
Directors of admissions must also work to ensure schools have a clear picture of their applicants. They often seek out methods that allow admissions committees to best judge applicants. This might involve creating a holistic review process.

For example, instead of stopping at reviewing an SAT score, transcript, and essay to make an admissions decision, a director of admissions may use rubrics to evaluate other details about an applicant, such as their past volunteer work or hobbies.

In their efforts to recruit talented students, directors of admissions may create programs that include information sessions, campus tours, ambassador programs, and other outreach activities. For instance, a director of admissions might organize public student concerts or performances to showcase the school’s music program, or coordinate student ambassadors who visit schools or attend recruitment fairs where they share their academic stories and successes.

Additionally, directors of admissions may assess their schools’ website traffic, the volume of applications from different regions, and the outcomes of specific recruitment activities to target prospective students. Directors of admissions might consider the race or ethnicity of applicants and current students with an eye to diversity scholarship programs to improve their schools’ diversity.

Other responsibilities of a director of admissions may include:

  • Coordinating with financial aid departments to assist prospective students with tuition
  • Establishing criteria for admitting or denying applicants
  • Traveling to different high schools to speak with their guidance counselors
  • Developing school promotional materials
  • Sharing admissions data, statistics, and policy changes with administration leaders and department heads
  • Hiring, training, and supervising admissions staff

Director of Admissions Skills

To succeed in their role, directors of admissions should cultivate the following skills:

Communication and Interpersonal Skills

Directors of admissions must build positive working relationships with students and parents. Directors of admissions should be approachable, so prospective students feel comfortable asking questions about the school and the application process.

Additionally, to effectively explain admissions policies and procedures, directors of admissions need excellent communication skills. They also benefit from presentation and networking skills, as they often must speak publicly and make connections with students, parents, and school counselors for recruiting purposes.

Analytical Skills

To effectively shape admissions policies and recruitment strategies, directors of admissions analyze student records and enrollment data. They also must problem-solve and make decisions about the admissions process. These tasks require acute analytical skills.

Leadership Skills

As heads of their departments, directors of admissions need to listen to and collaborate with others, give and receive feedback, and think creatively. They must also coordinate recruitment and admissions activities, as well as prioritize tasks, all of which require leadership skills.

The Need for Advanced Training and Education in Leadership

Directors of admissions make critical decisions that can impact a school’s growth, which calls for advanced training and education. Most positions require a master’s degree in educational leadership or a related field, as well as experience in admissions.

An advanced education prepares directors of admissions to take on leadership roles, evaluate programs, and come up with creative solutions to enrollment and admissions problems. Experience in an education administrative environment gives directors of admissions a strong foothold in the internal workings of the admissions and financial aid application process.

Director of Admissions Salary and Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), directors of admissions had a yearly median salary of $97,500 in May 2020. The lowest 10% of earners made less than $56,310, while the highest 10% made more than $199,400. The highest earners typically worked for public and private colleges and universities.

With many schools struggling to meet their enrollment targets, according to a recent Inside Higher Ed report, directors of admissions will likely find their expertise coveted. BLS data projects the number of positions to grow 4% through 2029.

Learn More About What It Takes to Become a Director of Admissions

Attracting and enrolling talented students in competitive markets takes leadership and creativity. With the right training and experience, a director of admissions can help ensure the growth and success of a college, university, or private school.

Discover how Mills College’s Online Master of Arts in Educational Leadership prepares graduates to take on leadership roles that help students and schools flourish.

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Sources

Betterteam, Admissions Director Job Description

Houston Chronicle, “What Makes a Successful Admissions Director?”

Inside Higher Ed, “2020 Survey of Admissions Leaders: A Mess of a Year”

JobHero, Director of Admissions Job Description

Liaison, “How Admissions Teams Use Data to Drive Better Decisions”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Postsecondary Education Administrators