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Lessons Learned

I’ve been working in enrollment management for 24 years now. In that time I’ve talked to thousands of students and parents, offered advice on panels and in presentations, talked with college and guidance counselors and collaborated with colleagues all across campus for dozens of open house programs, scholarship weekends and admitted student days. I’ve even had the good fortune of traveling multiple continents promoting Elon across the globe. But until recently, I was never the parent sitting in the information session, taking the tour and trying to figure out how to support my son as he determined which school offered him the best opportunity to launch his future. I wondered two other things: 1) how did time pass so quickly? And 2) how am I going to pay for this?  After all, I’m a father first.  Then I’m an enrollment manager.

Perhaps it’s because of my professional experiences that I’ve been hyper sensitive to not “controlling” the college search.  Knowing what and who I know, I will admit to having had some sense of where “we” should look.  But beyond that – and driving us to each location – I think I did a fairly reasonable job of letting my son take it all in. Ultimately, he identified a few schools that I agreed were pretty exciting, he applied, was admitted, made his choice and “the launch” occurred in mid-August. His mom, brother and I are even getting used to this new way of life. We’re doing much better than we were eight weeks ago but we miss him like crazy. And this teenage boy isn’t a Face Timer so we have to believe that little news is indeed good news.

So what did I learn? Personally, I was preparing myself for years. I’ve been through too many Move-In days not to recognize the emotional toll this life transition is for families. But now that the college search is in the rear view mirror for my oldest son, allow me to reflect on some observations along the way.

  1. Visiting campuses during the academic year is critical. Spring Break and summer is when most students visit because they are out of school and families can get away. Ultimately however, the energy of a community is impossible to appreciate without being there when students are on campus. I knew this to be the case but once I experienced it, I fully understood it.
  2. Campus tours should be no longer than one hour and 15 minutes. Any longer is information overload.  Plus, it can be really hot out there on the bricks! Furthermore, small campus tours are essential. It’s too easy to hang out in the back of the group and spend time on your phone. Doing so defeats the purpose of the tour.
  3. Information sessions must have visuals. We are all bombarded with messages that frequently sound the same. We live in a You Tube era. Video content isn’t special.  It’s the norm. Just make sure it’s short.
  4. It’s not just the tour guide that makes an impression. It’s also the staff member representing the college or university. Professionalism is important. I am exceedingly proud of my colleagues here in the admissions office and believe they represent Elon extraordinarily well.
  5. Deciding where to apply is much less challenging than choosing which college you will attend. Don’t get me wrong, this time of year is tough. Lots of deadlines inside and outside of the classroom. But once admission offers and, in some cases, scholarship offers arrive, it can be really hard to determine which academic environment is ideal. That’s why a second or third visit – particularly after you’ve been accepted – is vital. See what else you can do beyond another info session and tour. The more you know about a school before you enroll, the better.
  6. ZeeMee helps a lot. Never heard of it?  Check out This new(er) social media platform is designed just for students. It provides an opportunity to bring an application to life. That’s good for both students and the admissions committee!

I expected to learn a lot from my son’s college visit experience. Frankly, I was more excited about it than he was. As a dad, I learned what different schools had to offer my son. As an enrollment manager I enjoyed a first-hand look at what students and families experience as the college search unfolds. In the process, I’ve borrowed some of the things I considered especially effective for my son – and for me – and shared that with my colleagues on the very campuses that inspired me.

Imagine what I’ll learn by going through this again with my high school junior. Stay tuned.






Where You bELONg Admitted Student Events Near You

March 15th has come and gone. So has March 18th. If your application was part of the Regular Deadline pool, you know what I’m talking about. Four campus snow days, two ice storms and prolonged power outages made for a long winter. So much so that we had to move our decision release date back three days just to make sure we were ready.  

If you have been accepted to Elon for fall or spring, congratulations!

If you have been offered a place in the wait list pool, don’t be too discouraged. We have admitted students from the wait list nearly every year over the last decade.  It’s too early to tell if we will do so again this year but hearing from many of you is helpful as we assess the class size in the weeks to come. Wait list does NOT mean we don’t want you at Elon. With a pool of 10,405 applicants for 1450 seats in the class, we simply could not admit all the students we would like. Hang in there. Many great Elon students were admitted from the wait list.

Those of you who received good news in the mail recently may be wondering what’s next. We know that you’ll have several great options but the admissions committee believes Elon is right for you and you are right for Elon!  So what should you do now?

You can read my blog post from last year entitled “You’ve been accepted, now what?” or you can keep reading….

Thanks to the generosity of Elon parents, we have scheduled 15 Where You bELONg Admitted Student programs around the country.  More often than not, these are held in homes of currently enrolled Elon students. Families love Elon (and our retention rates demonstrate that). So, they have volunteered to host accepted students for an evening designed for you to meet other accepted students (ED, EA or RD) and other members of the Elon family. All accepted students were sent an e-mail invitation recently and the dates and locations are at the web site. Admissions counselors for each region will also attend to answer any questions you have. But let’s be honest, the main reason you’ll want to attend a Where You bELONg program is to meet other students who are serious about Elon. I’m headed to St. Louis for a program on the 9th and hope to see many of our STL admits there!

If the date for the program closest to you doesn’t work, we hope you’ll return to campus in April for one of our many accepted student programs. Take your pick!

Oh yes. You will want to pay your enrollment deposit sooner than later. This reserves your seat in the class and puts you in the queue for campus housing. Unless you were admitted under Early Decision, the deposit is fully refundable until May 1st, the national reply date.

Speaking of May 1st, it is just six weeks away. We look forward to seeing you in your hometown or on campus between now and then. And welcoming you to campus on August 22nd.

You’ve been accepted. Now what?

Happy 2014! Somehow we are more than half way through the month of January.

Time goes quickly when we’re busy. And from watching my sophomore son study for exams, I know how busy January can be for high school students. The good news is, depending on where you live, the semester is over – or just about over – and that means the spring of your senior year has arrived.

If your application to Elon was deferred in Early Decision or Early Action, we look forward to re-evaluating it with senior year grades. As you well know, it may be helpful to stay in touch with your admissions counselor so we know your interest in Elon remains strong. That’s what “demonstrated interest” is all about! Hang in there. March 15th will be here before we know it.

For those of you who received the “big envelope” and t-shirt, congratulations again on your admission. We’d love to have you at Elon in the fall. So, the good news arrived, the holidays passed and you may be wondering what to do next. Let me recommend a few things:

1) Pay your enrollment deposit. While it is not due until May 1, the Early Action deposit is completely refundable until that date and housing assignments are made by the date your deposit is received. This means the sooner your deposit arrives, the more likely you are to receive one of your preferences for the residential neighborhood where you’d most like to live as a first-year student. Of course, when a large number of students want a particular neighborhood, we can’t house everyone there. That’s another reason to pay your deposit as soon as you are ready.

2) Return to campus. You won’t believe how amazing the Elon campus is in the spring. While we host visitors Monday through Friday and most Saturday mornings, we have special events just for accepted students. On February 21 and April 11 we will host Phoenix Friday. Whether you’ve paid your deposit or not, this is a great opportunity to take a closer look at all the university has to offer. Whether or not you attend Phoenix Friday, you don’t want to miss Rising Phoenix Weekend on either March 14 & 15 or April 25 & 26. This program serves as Elon’s orientation program. Please note, unlike Phoenix Friday, registration and attendance at Rising Phoenix Weekend requires payment of your enrollment deposit in advance. Visit for details and registration.

3) Attend an event in your area in March or April. Parents Council members and other Elon families will once again host accepted and deposited students and families later this spring once Regular Deadline admissions decisions have been released. Invitations are forthcoming!

In short, there are many opportunities to return to Elon in the months to come. There will be others as well and I’ll update you as soon as registration is available on line. If you decide to visit again during your spring break, please be aware that Elon’s Spring Break runs March 21 – 31. The admissions office is open all week but it will be quiet on campus without our currently enrolled students.

Regardless of when you visit, I hope to meet you personally. And I’d love it if you told me you read my blog!

Elon’s 2013-2014 Applicant Pool

As I begin this entry, the rain continues to fall and students are finishing exams. I can hardly believe the calendar year is over. How can it be that our 1474 first-year students have finished their first semester? The class of 2017 is full of extraordinary students and ones I am so privileged to have met along the way. In the end, the greatest joy of the work we do is in building relationships with students and families that often last far beyond four undergraduate years. It was a great joy to see so many Elon families while on the road this fall.

We will spend the remainder of this week in committee preparing our Early Action release scheduled, as usual, for December 20th. To-date, over 8,000 students have submitted an application for next fall. Our regular Early Decision pool grew to 494 applications and the Early Action pool includes 6414 applicants. I’m also pleased to report growing interest in Elon’s Gap Semester program. In our second year of offering both an early and a regular deadline, Early Decision Gap applications grew 64%! The program is limited to 15 students so the selection process is particularly challenging. A number of students who applied ED to the Gap program were wait listed for Gap but admitted to the university. The program is too new to determine if and how many students on the Gap wait list will be offered Gap admission.

The EA pool this year is once again large and strong. Clearly, the word is out that the Elon community is full of smart students with good hearts. The admissions committee is working hard on identifying best academic and extracurricular “fit”. We do this by weighing course load, academic success, and diverse and varied interests that match institutional priorities. While the student’s academic record drives the admissions process, a standardized test is very much a factor in our careful evaluation as well. This is especially significant given the number of applicants and limited admission offers.

Because our regular deadline is still to come, we absolutely must limit the number of admission offers in EA. Following release we often hear from students inquiring about their admissions decisions. On the surface, it would seem a student within our advertised academic mid-range or above can expect to be admitted. That is not always the case. Remember, we are reviewing 6000 + applications and many, many of them are outstanding. We have to make hard choices based on a number of things and when the majority of applicants are strong, we simply cannot admit all the students we’d like. So, while many students will be excited with the news that comes their way on December 20th, we are aware that others will be disappointed. That’s hard for the committee as well because remember, we are the admissions staff. Our goal is to “admit” students. However, one of the reasons that Elon may be so appealing to you is our size. Our job is to create a community of learners who have demonstrated potential for academic success (which includes high school record and standardized test score) while maintaining the size of the university.

Often, a student or parent will call and say they know someone who has been admitted but is not planning to attend Elon. The hope is that with this knowledge, we will make an additional offer of admission. When we plan our number of offers for the year, this is already considered. Consequently, we only make additional admission offers once we’ve created a wait list and see the class coming together in the spring.

Sometimes deferred or declined students tell us they know admitted students with weaker or different profiles. Only an admissions office has the full academic and student profile. The decisions we make are based on completed applications that have been thoroughly reviewed by the committee. I have tremendous confidence in our process and in the entire staff. Their commitment to students and the Elon community is admirable. I am honored to work among them.

I started this post a week ago. Since then, the sun has returned and the staff is upstairs stuffing packets to make certain you receive your information in a timely manner. Thank you for applying Early Action to Elon University this year. If you don’t receive your anticipated decision, I know it will be disappointing. If your application is deferred, the very best thing you can do is maintain academic success as a high school senior and demonstrate your continued interest in becoming a Phoenix.

Happy Holidays to all.

The Phone Call Mystery

In the age of social media, news travels fast. When we decided to make some phone calls last evening, Twitter and Facebook lit up! Over the last couple of years I’ve learned that some have wondered who gets a call and who doesn’t. In fact, we like to call ED students since often we have gotten to know you really well given your high level of interest in Elon. When the calls are to accepted students, they are especially fun. We also call deferred and declined students on occasion – particularly when they have an existing connection to the university. These are harder because we hear the disappointment in your voices. Still, our work truly is relationship oriented on many levels and we feel a responsibility to convey news as adroitly as possible.

On the eve of Early Action release, why did some students receive a call and others didn’t? Let me be clear. Just because we may not be able to call you doesn’t mean the news is bad. In fact, we probably called less than 1% of our 6224 Early Action applicants last night. Believe me, we want to make more calls but the time between decisions being final and our release is limited. In most cases, the students who received a phone call have an existing relationship to the university. So, hang in there until midnight eastern time tonight. We cannot give you your admissions decision over the telephone today. Thanks for your understanding, your patience and most of all, your interest in Elon!

Decisions Decisions

Early Action committee review is complete and we are preparing for our December 21st release. If not for the renovations to the first floor of our building, I might actually hear the sighs relief. The team has rallied and, what are typically the most challenging weeks of the year for us will soon result in our posting decisions for 6224 Early Action applicants. In short, you are impressive. I can’t help but take note of this especially since I have two teenagers of my own now!

Let me provide some context. We were fortunate to have another stellar pool of candidates to consider for admission in the “early rounds” this year. Early Decision (released on December 1) was up 18% this year over last. Early Action, which grew exponentially last year, was essentially on par with a year ago. In other words, nearly 70% of our anticipated 10,000 applicants have already applied. Not to worry though, we expect a strong Final Deadline pool so if you have not already submitted an application, I hope you will do so by January 10.

It’s always a team effort and, with several new people in key positions within the department, I’m gratified by the high level of efficiency with which our work has again been carried this year. We traveled far and wide and our growth on the west coast is exciting. We brought Elon to Phoenix, Albuquerque and Wichita this year. I got to St. Louis twice this fall which, to know me is to know is never enough. I also had the true pleasure of meeting hundreds of interested students at Evening with Elon programs in Boston, Hartford and, thanks to the generosity of some Parents Council members, Greenwich. All in all, it was a great fall.

We will admit 51% of this year’s EA pool. The average recalculated core GPA for admitted students is 4.27 with an SAT average of 1960 or ACT of 28. You all have traveled near and far, have demonstrated an impressive desire to serve others and have excelled on the field and the stage. With a pool as large as Early Action, there are highly qualified students we couldn’t admit. That’s why “reading season” is so hard. We’re the admissions staff so our goal is to admit students. Selectivity is typically not a function of your inability to be successful here. It’s merely a function of a limited number of seats in the class. Our review is holistic which means we take both your academic and personal characteristics into consideration.

We’ll post decisions via OnTrack at midnight Friday morning, December 21st. The university, including admissions and financial planning, will reopen on Monday, December 31st for one day and then we’ll be back on the road for Evening with Elon programs in the mid-Atlantic in early January. You can register for these at

If you’ve read even one of my previous posts, you know I can’t blog without thanking you for your interest in my amazing alma mater. You are the reason we do what we do. It’s an absolute privilege to help create the future of Elon University. At this season of the year I am reminded of all things for which I have to be grateful. Being a part of Elon, working with an incredible faculty and staff and getting to know many of you are chief among them.

Happy Holidays.

Study USA and the Changing Face of Elon Admissions

Few things motivate one to write a blog entry more than when someone tells you they actually read your blog!    Honestly, I wondered if anyone else felt that way until I was in New York City last month.   I commented to a colleague that I read her blog while flying into the city.  She practically hugged me!

That trip to NY was to visit the Elon in New York program.   It struck me that while I flew home from the Elon in LA program last year, I wrote a blog entry on my observations and experiences on the west coast.   It follows then, that I should comment on my NY experience.    In short, it was fantastic!

If you know even a little about Elon, you know my alma mater is known for study abroad (among other things).   In fact, 71% of the students at Elon spend at least one term abroad which, according to IIE’s Open Doors, means more students study abroad at Elon than at any other master’s level institution in the country.  I’m extremely proud of that because a 21st century education must be a global education.    But education, like life, is built on experiences.    That’s why we’ve developed the Study USA opportunities – in both LA and NY.

The programs are nine weeks in length (though Elon in LA is now also a spring program).  You can read my entry about the LA experience which I wrote on August 6th of last year….   In NYC, 28 students are taking an upper level GST (General Studies) class.  It’s essentially an ethnography class that requires students to immerse themselves in the Streets of New York:  Madison Avenue, Broadway and Wall Street.   Classes are taught by Elon faculty members from the School of Communications, the department of Performing Arts and School of Business respectively and meet on Mondays.  From Tuesday through Friday, students are doing unpaid internships throughout the city.   From AKA to Julliard to the Arthritis Foundation, students are developing event planning, networking and strategic marketing skills.   These 28 students are majoring in a variety of things from Business to Music to Human Services Studies.   How can they return from such an experience and not be well positioned for continued academic success and the promise of better employment opportunities?   Oh yes, I also accompanied them to see Wicked on Broadway and to a Yankee game…..

Why has it been so long since I’ve blogged?   The spring semester was one of dramatic change in the admissions office at Elon.   We have several staff members in new positions – and I am among them!   On June 1 I assumed the role of Vice President of Admissions and Financial Planning.   Our new (interim) dean is Lisa Keegan ’03.   Upon graduation from Elon, Lisa worked in admissions as an assistant director before attending the Stetson University School of Law where she graduated magna cum laude in 2007.  She returned to Elon as Chief of Staff in President Lambert’s office until this summer.   In addition, Melinda Wood ’99 was recently promoted to Associate Dean of Admissions.  Melinda maintains her responsibility of managing the applicant pool while Cindy Barr, also an Associate Dean, supervises the scholarship process and our special populations of applicants.   Zaire McCoy ’02, is now Assistant Dean of Admissions.    In addition to her numerous responsbilities in professional organizations, Zaire manages our office and supervises our campus visit and event programming.   Along with Art Fadde, Associate Dean and Director of Graduate Admissions and Dr. Patrick Murphy MBA ’01, Director of Financial Planning, I cannot imagine stronger leadership or greater competency in a professional environment.  

Other folks new to their roles or new to the office are Kaitlyn Schultz ’10,  Associate Director and Director of Transfer and Special Admissions, Anita Alston ’07, Associate Director of Territory Management, Sarah Cates’ 04, Director of Application Processing,  Grant DeRoo ’12, Admissions Counselor for MA, RI and CT, Scott Christopherson ’12, Admissions Counselor for NY and NJ and Kathy Rodriguez, Assistant to the Director of Application Processing.  Kathy joins us most recently from William Patterson in my home state of NJ.  And do I even need to tell you how excited I am that Natalie Garza joins us from the Syracuse University Office of Admissions as Associate Director and Director of Multicultural Admissions?

Change is simultaneously hard and exhilarating.   We have a great team and we are eagerly preparing for the new admissions cycle.  But first, we are going to welcome the Elon Class of 2016 just three weeks from today!   Summer it seems, is just about over….

Finally, will the Vice President continue writing from the dean’s desk?   How about I write from the VP’s perspective?