Parents and students who come to hear admissions officer Chris Hanson ’05 speak often expect him to be “mean, old, balding and overweight,” so they are usually pleasantly surprised, he said.
Last week, 19 Yale College admissions officers returned for the year from outreach trips across the United States and Canada. They collectively held 180 information sessions and visited 671 high schools between June and October, passing through every state but North Dakota.
The annual flurry of traveling aims to provide information to as many prospective applicants as possible, Director of Student Outreach Jeremiah Quinlan ’03 said. Each officer specializes in one or more regions of the country and can spend up to five weeks at a time in a quick but thorough tour of schools, he said.
Officers also hold workshops with community organizations and meet with local alumni interviewers during their trips. Liz Kinsley ’05, who worked at the admissions office as a Yale College student and was hired as an officer after graduating, said the trips are a whirlwind of presentations and meetings with new people.
“It’s totally exhausting but really good work,” Kinsley said. “The constant human interaction and responsibility to articulate both the Yale experience and the admissions process keep you on an adrenaline high for most of the time.”
Hanson said his extracurricular involvement as an undergraduate, including his work as a tour guide, was good preparation for his job as an admissions officer. He said he enjoys walking into a school library or auditorium for an information session not knowing how the night will go. Attendees can range from children of alumni to students who have never considered Yale as an option, he said.
Growing interest in attending college and increasingly accessible financial aid affect the destinations chosen by the admissions office each year, Quinlan said. Officers go out of their way to visit “secondary markets” in addition to the urban areas with traditionally high concentrations of applicants, he said.
“We plan our travel strategy so that we are not only hitting up the big markets, but also so we can tell more people about need-based financial aid,” Quinlan said. “It means going to Amarillo as well as Houston in Texas, or Knoxville, Tenn., instead of Nashville.”
Kinsley, whose designated area is the Pacific Northwest, said she uses humor to make the admission process more approachable for parents and students.
“They should just try to enjoy themselves, laugh at my bad jokes, hear some good stories about Yale, and consider the admissions process in a realistic but not overly stressful light,” she said. “The best part of this job is being able to bring the admissions process down to earth a little bit.”
Current students said they appreciate that officers travel to areas with fewer applicants.
Kirk Portas ’09 said Yale hosted the most publicized and widely-attended information session in his hometown of Albuquerque, N.M., while few people were aware of the events hosted there by Harvard and Princeton.
“The admissions officer spoke for three hours to a packed room,” Portas said. “It surprised me because only three or four people from my state go to Yale each year, but the officer still stayed to answer all the questions.”
But Undergraduate Organizing Committee member Phoebe Rounds ’07 said she thinks the admissions office’s close relationship with certain high schools is reflected in the student body.
“It’s very noticeable if you think about which high schools people come from,” she said. “People from certain schools and areas do tend to be much more represented, and it leads to a skewed vision of what diversity is at Yale since many low-income and minority students come from a smaller pool.”
Rounds said although officers obviously cannot visit every city in the country, she would like to see them make a bigger commitment to reaching a wider variety of schools.
Back at Yale on Thursday, officers began the next stage of the admissions process — reading applications.