Best Practices for Directors of Graduate Admissions
Role of a DGA
Coordinate the applicant review and recruitment efforts for your graduate degree program(s).
Establish a working admissions group of faculty, staff, and students, as appropriate, to assist with setting priorities for recruitment, identifying common decision criteria, reviewing applications, ensuring the diversity of incoming students, making admissions decisions, and recruiting prospective students.
Serve as the first point of contact for the majority of inquiries from prospective students. Rely on your colleagues — faculty, staff and graduate students — to address some queries, but be prepared to spend your own time recruiting the program's top candidates.
Plan recruitment events as desired, including interview events and ad hoc site visits by prospective students. Be mindful of the special considerations necessary to recruit a diverse, high quality pool of students. Be mindful of how travel constraints, including international travel and financial costs, may impact the program's plans.
Recognize that visiting UNC-Chapel Hill has often positively impacted applicants' decisions about accepting admission here. Recent surveys found that the “friendliness” of faculty, staff and students, as well as the local area cost of living, are considered very important to applicants considering offers of admission from various universities.
Be aware of and use the resources offered by The Graduate School and the University in assisting with recruiting graduate students of diverse backgrounds and perspectives, such as travel funding and meeting with students of similar backgrounds/interests while visiting campus. Assist faculty and applicants in accessing these resources as they recruit candidates to your program.
Oversee and maintain all recruitment materials, both online and print materials.
Ensure that graduate students will be financially supported if admitted through service assistantships within the program or in other areas of the University, or through internal or external nonservice fellowships. Encourage faculty mentoring and information sharing to facilitate full funding of all graduate students in your program.
Coordinate communications with applicants, including funding offers, to ensure the most competitive offers possible, including assurance of multiple years of funding, if possible. Stay aware of funding offers provided by graduate program peers to ensure competiveness for the best students.
Coordinate graduate applicant selection processes for identifying students to be nominated for Graduate School recruitment fellowships and assistantships. Nominate selected applicants for recruitment fellowships. Use the Fellowships and Funding Handbook as a key resource for policy and process information.
Coordinate the efforts of multiple area/specialty directors (unique to specific programs), including serving as a resource on policies and procedures.
Work closely with the program student services manager or registrar on policies and procedures to ensure consistency.
Serve as the program's liaison to The Graduate School for policy clarification, special or unique situations, and general inquiries. Use the Graduate Handbook as a key resource for policy and process information.
The DGA does not work in isolation. Most programs have a graduate admissions committee that assists with the coordination and review of all applicants.
Consider ways your program can recruit from various target audiences, including under-represented populations. Utilize The Graduate School's assistance in this area whenever possible.
Target online materials and your program website for frequent updates. Strong websites can answer many questions for applicants, but most importantly, they are the primary recruitment tool for today's prospective students.
Establish your program's and discipline's priorities for standardized aspects of applications. How much weight will the GRE scores and undergraduate GPA hold? How will you value professional or research experience? Engage your faculty in these discussions to establish common benchmarks for the admissions committee to use.
Help engage prospective students with current graduate students and faculty whose research areas are good matches. These individuals will be able to sell the program and identify if the candidate is a good fit. Student ambassadors are critical to a successful recruitment program. In fact, students tell us that their interactions with other students may be one of the most important aspects of recruiting new students.
Consider purchasing recruitment lists from national services, such as ETS where you can buy a list of anyone who took a GRE subject area test in your field.
Current graduate students can participate in the admissions committee and selection process. They can receive access to the system for the recruiting year only (i.e., so they do not see information on their own cohort).
Consider various formats for interview weekends or recruitment visits. Possibilities include multiday visits, short and local events such as dinner, or informal events at faculty homes. Keep budget constraints in mind when planning events, both your own program budget and what you are expecting the candidates to cover.
When making a financial recruitment pitch, do not forget to include information about the local cost of living (housing and transportation) and job opportunities for following family members. Chapel Hill/RTP performs well on these measures. Many times our stipends may not match peer offers, but when the full picture is taken into consideration, we can be quite competitive.
Consider surveying your admits who did not choose to enroll in your program. While your response rates may be small, any information gathered may aid in improving your admissions and recruitment processes in future years.