Sometimes the answers are simple

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This year marked my 18th NAGAP conference. For my acronym-challenged friends, this is the National Association of Graduate Admissions Professionals. My first presentation, in 1994 in San Francisco, was entitled “What is WWW?” Oh how the times have changed.

Over my career in higher education, I’ve attempted to bridge the divide between the undergraduate and graduate recruiting efforts — bringing the lessons learned recruiting an 18-year-old to the world of recruiting adults. However, I received pushback on a regular basis from the graduate professionals with claims of “we’re different” or “we don’t have the resources they have” or “we don’t have the same issues.”

Then came those pesky Millennials to their graduate program interview and campus tour with their parents in tow. And you all came running to us wanting to know what to do with them, why are they here, why do they think their child is so damn special.

Resisting the “I told you so” reaction, it was an opportunity to look beyond just the generational change occurring and help the world of graduate admissions become successful and more efficient in recruiting the next group of advanced-degree seekers.

The wonderful thing about college recruiting is that we can see at least 18 years in advance what is coming down the road to our campuses. Graduate programs get at least another four years to react. To those who are surprised that fewer students are graduating from high school than in prior years, shame on you.

In my presentation at NAGAP last week in Austin — “If I Ran the Zoo (and your admission office too)!” — I shared a number of Dr. Seuss quotes and lessons we can learn from them. One of my new favorites is:

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are easy.”

My recommendation to you: Don’t try to recreate the wheel and certainly don’t turn a blind eye to your undergraduate colleagues across campus. They’ve been through many of the battles you’re about to face. I’m astonished how many campuses I visit where you don’t even know each other!

There’s no time for silos in higher education — especially across the various recruiting and marketing functions. Buy your undergraduate office professionals a beer or a pizza (or both) and take advantage of their knowledge and experience. Don’t wait for someone else to make this happen — do it now. The answer is simple.

Download the slide deck from this year’s Dr. Seuss-themed NAGAP presentation.

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About the Author:

Brian Wm. Niles is the Founder & Chief Evangelist of TargetX, a higher education CRM company. He is a well-respected voice of change in an industry that is at a tipping point, struggling to be more effective and efficient. After helping colleges adopt new tools and processes for recruiting students, Brian and his company have expanded into other functions on campus, including student retention, alumni relations and fundraising. Brian has become a leading advocate for enterprise-wide CRM (Customer Relationship Management), which he sees as the future for colleges desperate to engage with students, prospective students, alumni, potential donors and other key constituencies. Brian regularly appears as a keynote speaker and workshop leader at conferences around the country, presenting on technology and institutional change in an entertaining and informative way. And he is author of the higher education book, "Overthrowing Dead Culture: A Vision to Change the World of College Recruiting." Prior to starting TargetX in 1998, Brian spent his career in college admissions and enrollment management positions and as a marketing and enrollment management consultant. He has earned a master's degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania and built TargetX into a multi-million dollar technology firm serving more than 450 colleges and universities.

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