Excited, Energized and Eager: Reflections on MIDWest Conference 2024

When I heard MIDWest Conference 2024 was going to be in Dubuque, Iowa, I was thrilled for the opportunity to showcase the place I get to call home! In true Midwest fashion, last week’s conference was a warm, welcoming gathering of professionals dedicated to shaping the future of higher education.

Two consistent themes emerged throughout sessions and conversations: 1) the difficulties caused by high turnover in our profession; 2) the major shifts in our enrollment strategies. 

MIDWest Conference

Passion and Longevity in Admissions

One of the most eye-opening statistics came during Iowa State University Director of Recruitment Jennifer Johnson’s conference session on recruiting and retaining entry-level admissions professionals. A staggering 71 percent of counselors plan to stay in their current roles for only three years or less.

This highlights a significant challenge in our field: the disconnect between the initial passion for the job and the long-term reality of admissions work.

Admissions is characterized by elongated cycles with peaks and valleys and delayed gratification, which often doesn’t align with the expectations of building relationships. It’s essential to have intentional, transparent conversations about the nature of the job. By doing so, we can help new professionals understand their passions, goals, and skills better, ensuring they make informed career decisions.

A Shift from Transactional to Relational

Every recruitment cycle presents its challenges, but this year has been particularly tumultuous, especially with the changes in FAFSA. Amidst the prevalent negativity surrounding higher education, a glimmer of hope shone during the executive leadership breakfast.

One executive shared that their counselors’ approach has shifted from being purely transactional to more relational. This change is largely due to the counselors being closer in age to their prospects, allowing them to empathize with the frustrations and uncertainties faced by students and their families.

Transparent, meaningful conversations are not only beneficial but necessary as they navigate the college search and decision-making process, which is arguably the most significant decision of their young lives thus far.

MIDWest 2024

Capture Senior Enrollment Advisor Derek Hartl, Enrollment Solutions Consultant Nicole Bumphrey, and a very young, future prospective college student (Nicole’s daughter, Novah) at MIDWest 2024.

Conversations Matter

The overarching lesson from the conference is clear: transparent, intentional and meaningful conversations matter. They are crucial in both retaining passionate professionals in admissions and in fostering a supportive and understanding environment for prospective students and their families.

Although the conference was short, I left feeling excited, energized and eager to apply the insights I gained from my newest 400 friends and colleagues to make a positive impact in our field.

By Nicole Bumphrey, Enrollment Solutions Consultant, Capture Higher Ed