You Aren't Recruiting Enough First-Generation Students

A new day of shivers. The third snow day and October is not out yet.

Slamming the door behind her, already tired, she would not be back until Christmas Eve. The college campus was still silent and she stumbled across the sidewalk.

How many first-generation students will Janice recruit this fall?

Ten years as an international admissions officer, the process has not changed.

The trips settle into a blur.

The mind shuts down.

Habit takes over.

A slippery cab ride to Burlington International Airport, red-eye to London, then roaming around Europe for what seems like ages.

Hilton Reward Points pilling up.

As the plane was taking off, headset and blanket in hand, Janice recalled how disheartening the last visit to Rome was.

She emailed the self-appointed country coordinator two weeks ahead. That’s the most active school counselor in the city. Thankfully, he was around and replied (not always the case).

A light spurt of email exchanges later, Janice had four appointments set.

Always the same high schools.
Always the same type of student.
Poor things. Groomed to perfection.

A handful of them shows up.

The appointment is during recess, and the kids are hungry, so many prefer the cafeteria.

Blank, beady eyes barely noticing her presentation.

The same questions, each time.

Then she had her mini-luncheon at the Hilton. The ETS/College Board mailers had gone out late due to a computer system glitch. So Janice expected a low turnout.

One family came by, then left.
A “private” counselor also popped in, saying that her client was very interested but couldn’t make it because her best friend had a birthday party.

Janice could not imagine what would happen in two years when the college drops the SAT/ACT requirement. They will no longer have access to the ETS database.

As she closed her eyes, Janice hoped that this year it would be different.

She recalled there was some marketing initiative going on.

The dean of admissions always had some fancy analytics push or other going on, but this one seemed promising in its simplicity.

Janice had been asked to hand over her itinerary on a spreadsheet one month before she left. That was it.

Waking up in Heathrow, she did not think of it again, habit had kicked in.

Sure enough, 2 weeks before Rome, she received an amazing mini-website in Italian, dedicated to her Rome trip: college logo, a flattering headshot, the works.

Someone launched a Facebook campaign, again curated around her trip.

The web was buzzing.

Nine schools booked appointments, some of which she had never heard of before.

A Facebook event (not created by her) about the Hilton luncheon showed sixty-nine people attending.

From all over, Naples to Florence!

Unexpectedly, the marketing agency then started sending her organized emails with students’ paperwork, test scores, and contact details.

The same digital buzz followed her in every city.

Rome, Paris, Warsaw, Berlin, Riga, Budapest, Athens, Ljubljana, Lisbon, Tirana, Vienna, it went on and on.

Janice met the most delightful, unusual group of students she had ever seen.

They kept popping out of the woodwork.

Stories of loss, stories of rebellion, stories of grit and perseverance, stories of triumph.

Meeting her fellow counselors for Africa and Asia at the next Council of International Schools event, they had similar stories to tell.

Janice and her friends sat late into the night, laughing, crying and sharing the stories of the students they met that fall.