What Does an Admissions Officer Do?

by Bethany Goldszer | Last Updated: May 9, 2022
admission officer

Table of Contents

If you’re applying to a top college, the odds are not in your favor. You have a few options to stand out. First, show that you are a great candidate with grades and test scores that exceed the median range. Also, show your depth in the courses you’ve taken, activities you’ve participated in, and relationships you’ve built with your teachers. Also necessary, build relationships with the admissions officer who will be reading your application. If you’re like many of the students I’ve worked with, you know the first three are important. But like them, you may be unsure about why it’s crucial to get to know your admissions officer. Before reading this post, you may have overlooked this step altogether. However, it may be the most favorable thing you do.

This post will share more details about who an admissions officer is, what they do, and why you should partner with them.

What does an admissions officer do?

An institution hires admissions officers to provide information about the school to interested students. Admissions officers review incoming and transfer student applications to determine who will be accepted and denied admission. The admissions officer is well versed in all aspects of academics and campus life. The admissions officer can direct you to other contacts at the college or university to assist you with a question or concern. Also, they are an ally and potential partner in your admissions into the college or university.

Beyond their role of being a representative for the college or university, keep reading to know their other important tasks and how they relate to your admission decision.

Admissions officers recommend who gets admitted

When you submit your application, it will land on the admissions officer’s desk, representing your area. You can find the admissions officer who will read your application first at the college admissions office’s website. The industry average for the time they spend reading your application is 15-20 minutes. But anecdotal evidence shows that bigger and more competitive schools like Harvard College may only spend five to six minutes on your application. And a smaller school, like Amherst College, may spend closer to the industry average. Yet still, it’s not a lot of time, so this is an example where first impressions are everything.

As they read your application, the admissions officer is learning about you through your grades, test scores, recommendation letters, extracurricular accomplishments, and essays. With this information, they form an opinion about you and recommend you to the full decision committee for admission. Keep in mind as you write essays and put together your application to speak to a real person. The more authentic, in touch, and aligned you are in your message, the better you can appeal to who this person is looking to recommend. In turn, it can increase the chances you’ll make it past the first admissions round.

Admission officer

Admissions officers build an incoming class

As much as the admissions officer may like you as a real person, their commitment is to the college and institutional priorities. Institutional priorities are a foundational concept that I’ll touch on in a future post. Essentially, it is the set of guidelines that admissions officers must abide by as they select students to join the incoming class. Examples could be exceptional students who can fully pay the tuition price and don’t need financial aid. Or students who play golf, female marine biologists, and low-income students who’d help the college meet its commitment to ethnic and geographic diversity. 

This concept of institutional priorities may motivate you can pinpoint your top colleges’ institutional priorities. Being who they are looking for can benefit you favorably. When I advise you to find your best-fit college, I am telling you to build a list of the colleges with all of the qualities you look for in a school where you want to study and spend four years. In reverse, I advise that you know that you check all the boxes for the college or university. When endearment goes both ways, it’s a perfect match made

Admissions officers get recommendations from others

The application you submit is mostly in your words. Your teachers will put in a good word for you as well to support your application. But worth its weight in gold is having the recommendation of others on campus, such as sports coaches, professors, and other faculty who want talented students like you on campus. How this may play out is in the example of where you may be recruited by a coach of an NCAA Division III college. All coaches will say that admissions have to admit you into the college or university formally. But if you’re a great candidate and meet who they are looking for based on previous statistics, and you get a “thumbs up” from the coach, then your chances of getting admitted go way up. In Netflix’s Operation Varsity Blues, the film shows how this mechanism works. Both devious and illegal, Rick Singer’s side door via athletic faculty recommendations allowed him to dupe the system.

Woman admission officer checking college essays

Admissions officers are under a lot of stress

The college admissions officer’s job is rewarding and stressful. They have to make their best judgment decisions based on what they can’t control. If they admit you and you don’t succeed, or you transfer out, they get blamed. What they need is the assurance you’ll be successful. You do this with how you perform in school and align with previous statistics. You can also assure admissions officers you’re a great choice in the way you interact with them before submitting your application.

The admissions officer is the person you want  to get to know you better. At the very least, you should contact them with a friendly and polite email letting them know your strong interest in the college or university and asking a thoughtful and engaging question. You should include your resume in the email and ask for a reply back to confirm you have their attention.

Regularly, you should reach out to the admissions officer with updates and let them know when you submit your application and confirm that they have received everything. If it’s not clear when you’ll hear back from them, this is a great question to ask the admissions officer. And most importantly, send them a thank you card after you hear the decision you’ve been waiting for. I’ve had students do this in the past, and they received a lovely note or phone call welcoming them to campus.

Conclusions + Next Steps

In this post, I showed you what an admissions officer does and the importance of partnering with this person to position yourself for success. As a next step, I’d like you to find who your area admissions officer is and send them an email to introduce yourself.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Was this article helpful?
Bethany Goldszer is top college admissions and financial aid expert. She's been featured in HuffPost, USA Today, Newsday, Queens Gazette, and Official Black Wall Street & voted Best of Long Island. Faced with the overwhelming stress of applying, getting admitted to and financing her University of Chicago education, she started Stand Out College Prep LLC in 2012 so that no student or parent would have to go through this process alone. Over the last 15 years, Bethany has worked with over 1,500 students, helping them and their parents get into their top choice colleges and secure more than $20M in financial aid and scholarships. And each year, she continues to help more students stand out in the college admissions process and their parents navigate financial aid and scholarships.