Bridging the Gap Between Admissions and Career Services at For-Profit Institutions
Most for-profit colleges and universities have both Admissions and Career Services Departments. However, these departments usually operate at an arm’s length from one-another, to the detriment of themselves, their institution and their students.
In some higher learning settings, the general approach of the Admissions Department—a “front-end” service—is to enroll anyone that passes the entrance exam and expresses a desire to enroll. These particular Admission Departments focus mainly on the degrees offered at that school and how a degree in the field the potential student is interested in will benefit their future.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this process, however it leaves out procedures crucial to the student’s success, both in the classroom and in their future career. These procedures require the Admissions representative to delve deeply into the natural skills, hobbies and personalities of enrollees to determine whether the chosen degree will lead to a natural career path for that person—one they will not only succeed in but enjoy. When Admissions representatives hurry the enrollment process in order to reach quota goals for the department and individual representative, students end up making poor choices and pursuing degrees not really suited to their skills and interests. Aggravating the problem, Admissions Departments often make big promises of easy career placements upon the student’s graduation as an incentive for the potential student to choose that particular school.
Career Services is an “end-line” service at many of these institutions. Typically, no Career Services representative even meets a student until they are about to graduate. Career Services Departments are charged with assisting graduating students in securing a career in their chosen field. They are then expected to provide lifelong career service to graduates—no matter how many times the student may contact Career Services for help. This is seen as a huge incentive to potential enrollees to choose a particular school; but it is seen by many Career Services representatives as a virtually impossible policy to uphold.
Unrealistic expectations, such as lifelong career advice, often lead to friction between the Admissions Department and Career Services. Admissions is perceived by Career Services as making lofty and unrealistic statements about the ability of Career Services to place all students in exactly the intern/externship and job of their choosing, and to continue doing so throughout each graduate’s career.
I have witnessed many situations where students grew quite agitated at the apparent lack of professionalism and ability of their Career Services representative failing to live-up to their “hype” because they were promised they would get the position of their choice. One does not have to work in Career Services to know, especially in these troubled economic times, the promise of easy employment is fairly impossible to accomplish.
In particular, I had one nursing student who told me she hated working around germs and anyone who was sick. She also said that, in general, she didn’t like working with the public. I found myself asking, “What could her expectation of a nurses’ job have been? How in the world, if she does graduate, is she going to keep a job in nursing with that attitude? Moreover, how would Career Services manage to place her and keep her placed?”
She is not the only student I encountered who actually told me they hated the very tasks and procedures they would have to perform in their chosen career. It’s no wonder that Admissions and Career Services in these institutions often do not work well with each other and that separate “sandboxes” are needed. But wait, that’s the problem—they HAVE to work in the same sandbox! So how does the college or university influence a change in the relationship between Admissions and Career Services Departments?
One solution is for Admissions and Career Services to be expected to work together from the get-go. Admissions would benefit from the expertise of Career Services representatives to help the enrollee understand his/her opportunities in a certain career, based on their personalities and abilities. In this instance, Career Services should work with Admissions to ensure that the student is moving in the direction of a career that suits their skills. This would allow representatives to determine whether a student is a good fit for a given degree path.
Secondly, perhaps these institutions should not promise lifelong career service to the graduate. I believe, as do many others, that offering services until a student is placed once should be enough. However, it could be reasonable to extend this service for a period of two years or up to two jobs but it is very unrealistic to expect Career Services to provide a graduate 30 years of assistance in finding a job.
Finally, Admissions should discuss degrees and careers more thoroughly with students. While these conversations should not be grounds to bar students from a program, Admissions should be allowed to express concerns at a skill mismatch and even guide prospective students toward another degree path that better suits them.
There never have been, and probably never will be, perfect policies and procedures within any organization for any type of position. However, with time and realized or unrealized expectations, policies and procedures change. Admissions and Career Services Departments should not be at odds with one another, nor should they be amalgamated. They should actually be two departments that work closely and cooperatively with each other in order to accomplish their goal of producing successful graduates. After all, preparation for the job market is the actual tell, or “bottom-line” if you will, of an excellent higher learning organization.
Author Perspective: Administrator