Internship - Making A Difference!

By Sally Benford posted 01-31-2019 17:23


There’s a way to nix the notion that the admission and enrollment profession is an accidental career for those who fall into it. That way is through internships—a strategy that a few independent schools are trying on for size, proving that intern programs work well for the schools, the student interns—and the profession.

Remember your college years? Juggling classes and assignments, learning new concepts and ideas while trying so hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel—better known as graduation. The end of college signals the beginning of adulthood and many graduates really have no idea about their next steps. For many, college is a requirement for future employment but if the student hasn’t wisely invested time in learning about different career paths, future job opportunities may be elusive. That’s where internships come in, and there’s no better way to promote the admission and enrollment profession than by offering college students a chance to experience working for an admission office in independent schools.

Janie McIlvaine,
Director of Admissions,
Berkeley Preparatory School
Janie McIlvaine, Director of Admissions for Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, has worked with interns in her admission office for the past four summers and has hired her fifth intern for this summer. She’s one of a few admission professionals who are leading the charge to prepare young people to enter the field.

I fell into my career, and the admission profession continues to be the ultimate accidental career. It’s a profession where many people start out cold. We can change that,” she says.

Katie Sibson,
Director of Enrollment Mgmt.,
St. Paul’s School
McIlvaine’s first intern—just a few short years ago—was Katie Sibson, now Director of Enrollment Management at St. Paul’s School in Clearwater. Sibson had attended Berkeley and had given tours there her junior and senior years in high school. During her sophomore year at Florida State University, she approached McIlvaine to see if there were any internships available at the school.

Janie told me, ‘We’ve never had an admission intern before, but let’s give it a try.’ I was thrilled. It was a great opportunity to have Janie as a mentor,”says Sibson.

It was a positive experience for both. Sibson offered McIlvaine some much-needed help while she learned about the variety of skills the job entails.

McIlvaine says that working with interns does take effort, so summers are best.

I can devote time to them in the summer. Each day is like a lesson plan—what we’re going to accomplish and what the goal is,” McIlvaine says.

As part of the internship, McIlvaine offers her interns a real work experience. On any given day, they might visit with families and lead tours, give tests and learn how to interpret them, create admission files for prospective students, work on ad and marketing campaigns and attend a variety of meetings. She’s already assigned a project to her 2018 intern—putting together a PowerPoint presentation for feeder school visits in the fall. McIlvaine’s interns must have at least a year of college, and they sign a confidentiality agreement. Depending on the college or university, some even earn credit hours.

I try to have a series of ongoing projects and the interns have to be willing, if a teachable-moment opportunity presents itself, to drop what they’re doing to learn something new,” she says.

Sibson credits her internship at Berkeley with her decision to enter the admission and enrollment profession. She says her experience was really helpful to understand how complex and interesting the job is. Although she graduated with an education degree and completed her student teaching, she decided to go into admission. She’s currently in her third year and says she loves it.

I think it’s very important for young people to look at admissions as a future career. It doesn’t matter what their field of study is because there are so many aspects of the job that are related to business, strategic marketing, finance and education that almost any different degree program would work,” Sibson says.

McIlvaine couldn’t agree more. She’s in it for the long haul and hopes that other schools will consider offering admission and enrollment internships. AISAP is also promoting the idea of internships by working with the nationally known Handshake organization to partner in the effort. Handshake is a network that joins with more than 400 universities across the country to help students find meaningful careers.

I think it’s an obligation we have to the profession, to share our knowledge and our craft. If we’re going to get competent people, they should be surrounded by admission professionals. We should use our platform to move this profession forward. I see a real upside to doing this—we’re
furthering our profession. It helps all of us because we’re shaping the future leaders of our institutions,” McIlvaine says.