By Erica Dunigan
Staff reporter

Students attending Southwestern have some reason they chose to be here. Some students base their college decisions on sports. Others base their decisions on majors, where friends are going, financial assistance, family tradition or distance from home. Colleges spend a lot of time promoting their programs in hopes that something will catch a student’s eye but many factors play into deciding which college is a good fit.

Leah Hartman, admission counselor, said, “It’s frustrating not having any control over what an 18 year old will choose.”

This year Southwestern welcomed a large freshman class. Typically, admission counselors try to predict which students will fit well and will choose to come to Southwestern. With the economy turning parents and students into bargain hunters, admission counselors say they hope that the young applicants will still consider Southwestern.

Southwestern offer high school students plenty of opportunities to learn about the college. Admission counselors stay busy planning campus visits, organizing booths for college fairs, visiting high schools, and inviting prospects to campus for Explore More Days.

Colleges rely on an admission counselor to stay in touch with a prospective student, and to keep them interested in wanting to come to their college. Hartman said, “A typical week consist of traveling, meeting with students, paper pushing, keeping up with post cards, getting students accepted, mailing packets, and collaborating. It’s [a] fun, but also very busy week.”

If an admission counselor captures the prospective student’s interest, the student has to go through a process. Leslie Grant, admission counselor, said, “The application process consists of filling out an application, writing an essay, and submitting transcripts. Once that is all sent in, we evaluate the application and decide if the student will be accepted at Southwestern.”

At Southwestern, the admission counselor organizes prospects by the activities the students are interested in.  Rodney Worsham, associate director of admissions, said, “We used to separate the students by territory, but now we separate the students by activities. I have the three learning teams, which are Leadership, Discipleship, and Green Team. I also have communications.”

Many students want to get a better education and high school seniors have plenty options. According to Worsham, colleges have to be able to grab their attention and bring something different to the table. “It’s easier to split up the students by their interests in the different activities,” said Worsham. “We’re able to focus more, and we’re able to communicate a lot more with the students.”

An admission counselor builds a bond with the student, but it fades away when the student starts school. Grant said, “Sometimes we will talk to them for a full year, and then they come to Southwestern. After they come to school they build a bond with their advisor or coach, and then we don’t talk with them much after that.”

With tuition going up, it can be hard to gain a student’s interest, but with a good counselor the task is simpler. Hartman said, “The best part of the job is getting to know each student, and telling them about my experience and SC and how it changed me.”

Erica Dunigan is a junior majoring in professional communication. You may e-mail her at erica.dunigan@sckans.edu.