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Admitting students a logistical challenge

By : Shirley Yi Lin

Associate Director Harolyn Pasquale talks with student worker Wonseo Park while filing materials for prospective students. Other student workers include Mike Dooley, left and Emily Lopez.
They start with a trickle in July, delivered over the Internet or through the mail. By December and January, like the snow covering the campus, they blanket the Office of Undergraduate Admissions in white paper.

Applications for admissions — thousands and thousands of them — arrive each year from hopeful students seeking entrance as freshmen or transfers. This year was no exception. The Admissions Office received nearly 22,000 applications for fall 2004 (19,700 freshmen; 2,200 transfers) — again setting records for the campus and among SUNY schools. But the numbers hardly tell the story of what it takes to convert applicants into students.

“This is an incredible logistical challenge that must be done with great care and in a timely fashion,” said Harolyn Pasquale, the associate director for admissions who oversees the massive processing job.

A major challenge is managing huge amounts of paper — nearly half a million pieces a year. Each completed application contains a factor of seven. In addition to the completed application, students must submit transcripts, recommendations, supplementary admission forms, an essay, activity resumes and standardized test scores.

Some applicants also have the notion that more is better, Pasquale said. “They send a copy of every certificate, award and honor that they have received in high school,” Pasquale said.

Melina Reyes, a freshman political science and Latin American and Caribbean area studies major, who helps file in admissions, agrees. “Sometimes, they will send you a stack of paper an inch high with six or seven recommendation letters,” Reyes said. “Some people send pictures of themselves. Everyone has his or her own way of trying to win over admissions.”

All the paperwork needs to be recorded, filed, retrieved and reviewed by March.

“During our busy season, we receive over 1,500 applications a week — that’s about 15 mail bins a week,” Pasquale said. “We have two staff members and four student workers just to open the mail.” In recent years, in-state students have been able to apply online through the SUNY processing center, but files must still be created and filed. Ironically, online applications can sometimes increase the paper received because students send duplicates.

In addition to the paper that comes in, the office sends out thousands of pieces itself. The average applicant receives between 30 to 40 e-mails or mailings about the University, their school choice, visit opportunities, missing materials and, finally, their admissions decision. The staff also handles thousands of phone calls and greets visitors on a nearly daily basis.

Sandra Starke, associate vice provost for enrollment management, said the high quality and hard work of the processing staff makes it possible to get the job done well. “They do an incredible amount of work,” she said. “Besides handling the normal communication, they are also dealing with thousands of disappointed people — the parents and students who don’t get in — and they do it in a professional, sensitive way.”

In addition to the staff, the office employs 50 to 60 work-study students to open mail, sort, file and record materials. During the semester break, several dozen international students help with processing.

Coordinating the student help is a logistical challenge in itself, according to Shelene VanKuren, who manages the student helpers. Students work from 6-10 hours a week doing a range of tasks and are asked to help manage their own schedule by signing up for available work times.

“Without them, we’d be pulling our hair out,” she said. “We wouldn’t have any hair; we’d all be wearing wigs.” Despite the deadlines and workload, the office is a fun place to work, students and staff said.

“We work hard,” Pasquale said. “But it’s a fun place. We have a great staff who work well with students. There is a lot of mutual respect. Caring, genuine caring about each other, and all of that brings everybody together as a team.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08