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September 20, 2016

A Day in the Life of an Admission Counselor: Recruiting Students in NYC

johnny_blogQuestion: Have you seen that movie, Admission with Tina Fey? Is your job really like that?

Yes, I’ve seen that movie. In fact, I watched it on a Virgin America flight a few years ago on my way to NYC for one of my recruitment trips (How meta is that?) Tina Fey plays an admission counselor from a highly selective university, and there’s a scene of her doing high school visits that made me giggle a little too hard in my aisle seat (ok, fine…it was a middle seat). Tina does several vocal warm-ups and psychs herself up before reciting the same exact presentation about her school several times a day. This week starts my first recruitment trip of the season in New York City, and I’ll be visiting four to five high schools a day to chat about the USC experience. Our applicant pool is large and diverse and my applicants’ understanding of USC and the college admission process will vary dramatically. Following are some of the places where you’ll find me meeting students this fall in the Big Apple!

1) Visiting High Schools

As you’re finishing up your Calculus test or running from Drama or MUN, I’m probably underneath the city on the subway traveling to one of my many high school visits in NYC. Typically, this is the very best way to move around the city, but I was once stuck underground for over three hours. If I don’t show up for my appointment at your school I’m probably making friends with the subway rats while waiting for help. Today I went to five high schools on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, which sounds like a lot, but when the schools are all a few blocks from each other it’s actually not that bad. Unlike my colleagues who recruit in almost any other city, I do not have a rental car in New York. September can be beautiful in New York, but today it was 90 degrees, humid, and eventually ended in thunderstorms. If only I could have been in an air conditioned Toyota Yaris instead of lugging my USC brochures in my suit down Park Avenue in the rain. Sounds glamorous, doesn’t it?? All of the schools I went to today have really small senior classes, so if 10 students show up, that’s a great turnout. Everyone really came prepared having done some preliminary research about USC, which I appreciate more than anything. I would say the top question that I was asked at every school today was whether USC students can double major. Being able to talk about the Renaissance Scholars program, which encourages students to pick up a second major or a minor in a completely different department from their primary major really shows our commitment to interdisciplinary studies. I finished my fifth high school visit around 2pm, grabbed a bagel with tofu cream cheese, and stumbled on the downtown 4 train back to the Courtyard Marriott. Time to rest up and do it all again tomorrow!

2) Discover USC Off-Campus Reception

I make it to about 60 high schools throughout the five boroughs of NYC to meet students (yes, even Staten Island!), but I absolutely can’t visit every school. For this reason, our office hosts off-campus receptions so that we can bring the same on-campus information session to your home turf. These events are free and although we’d like you to register ahead of time, you can simply show up too. Everyone  is welcome! In NYC, our event was last weekend in Times Square and it was huge! I arrived to the hotel a few hours before the event to help set up, but once families started arriving I was chatting non-stop. For the presentation, I spoke about the admission process in front of roughly 500 guests, but strangely I didn’t really get nervous. Remember, I’m talking about USC four times a day for the entire fall so it’s like second nature to me at this point. Afterwards, students and families had the opportunity to get more detailed information about the major of their choice in a smaller break out session so it really is a team effort at the reception. In NY, there are always plenty of students interested in our conservatory-style arts programs so I’m constantly pointing them toward my admission colleagues who work in the schools of Dramatic Arts, Cinematic Arts, and Dance. I’m also always ready to engage in a Hamilton sing-a-long…just putting that out there to all my fellow Theater kids.

3) Community Based Organizations (CBOs)

I also get to collaborate with some incredible college access organizations that help many underrepresented and first-generation college students learn more about applying to college. For students who are from NYC and the first in their family to attend college, the idea of flying across the country to attend a large private university can sound daunting. I haven’t met with any CBOs yet this fall, but this past spring, a CBO invited me to sit on a panel alongside other admission counselors, and it was really interesting to listen to other colleges talk about their school. The students trickled in after a full day at their different high schools, some commuting over an hour just to hear the advice from me and my admission colleagues. We discussed our fun campus traditions, general education programs, and application advice before getting the chance to meet individually with the students during a mini-college fair. I love getting the chance to meet with students who might not have thought to come to my high school visit or the Discover USC reception, but who are excited about the idea of going to college across the country. Before I left, I told all the students that now they have to start convincing their parents that this is a good idea too. This is usually one of the most difficult aspects of the admission process.

I have several weeks of recruitment left and I look forward to meeting everyone in NYC this fall! I just hope that I make Tina Fey proud.

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