On the third floor of the Arend and Nancy Lubbers Student Services Center, the work does not slow down for the Office of Admissions. The office is open Monday through Saturday during the academic year because Saturday tends to be a more popular day for families to visit Grand Valley. Summer months are also filled with daily campus visits as students and families prepare for the upcoming senior year of high school.
Throughout the admissions recruitment season, the admissions staff will visit more than 500 high schools, host 10,000 prospective students and their guests on campus and review and make admissions decisions on more than 20,000 undergraduate applications.
Jodi Chycinski, associate vice president and director of admissions, has worked at Grand Valley for more than 20 years. She said she realized early in her career that there was nothing more she wanted than to help students pursue higher education.
She spoke with Grand Valley Magazine about how her work has changed through the years, what the admissions process looks like and speaks to the amount of Laker pride she has in being part of a diverse community that supports one another.
What does a work day look like for you?
My position involves strategy and thinking about the big picture of admissions work — how we will reach our enrollment goals, specifically new student enrollment, which includes first-time students out of high school and transfer students.
My personality requires that I’m involved in many day-to-day tasks so I can help and support the admissions team in the best possible way. Every day is very different.
How has the work in your office changed since you began working at Grand Valley?
There are a couple of aspects that have changed pretty significantly. The one that hasn’t is the building of relationships, that’s still critical. What I have seen is how parents are involved in the process. We have to make sure we are communicating with family members or parents so they are able to support the students. The other change is technology. There are a lot of ways students receive information today and not all students like to receive information the same way. The use of social media is a whole other avenue where students are getting information.
What should a high school sophomore or junior be doing now to stand out in an application?
The most important thing that a student should be focused on is their course selection and grades in their academic courses. Academic preparation is really the most important piece in preparing for college. At Grand Valley, we’re certainly looking for well-rounded students, students who are involved in their high schools and communities. However, it’s critical in early years to develop strong study skills to be a motivated student and understand how to learn. That is what will sustain a student when they get to college.
If a student were considering Grand Valley and another school, how would the admissions office help the student make the decision?
The way we see our role in admissions is to present the university as accurately and as positively as possible. When a student is trying to decide between two institutions, we will sit down and answer whatever questions we can about our university. If we don’t know the answer, we will find people on campus who can provide the information. We strongly encourage the student to visit the other institution on their list. At the end of the day, a student has to feel good about where they are attending college.
What does the process look like from when students apply to when they arrive on campus?
For students applying in the fall of their senior year of high school (which is when we receive a majority of applications) there can be six-to-nine months before they make a decision on where they want to enroll.
Part of our job is to get relevant information to students along the way. It might be communication about a major or meeting a deadline for housing and scholarships. We’re constantly communicating information that we hope will be of value so that when they get to May 1 (Decision Day) of their senior year, they can make the best possible decision on whether or not Grand Valley is the right fit for them.
How does Grand Valley compete when there is a declining population of high school students in Michigan?
We will continue to do the outreach and work we’ve always done. I think being true to who we are as an institution is going to serve us well because that is what has gotten us to this point — students having a positive experience here. If we continue to stay focused on our students and their experiences, I think we will get through this difficult period of true demographic decline. We need to continue to let families know the value of a four-year degree.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Seeing a student who you’ve talked to at a high school or met during a campus visit be here on campus. Then getting to know them and seeing them graduate. To know we talked to students in high school, they enroll and have these experiences at Grand Valley that change their lives in so many ways, that is incredible.