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Here’s what I’ve learned in my first 100 days at Juniata

Matthew Connor
Matthew Connor, Admission Counselor

Now that I have completed 100 days as an admissions counselor, I wanted to share some of my story. Before telling you about my role, I think it is important that you understand through what lens I view things. After graduating from college with a degree in Secondary Math Education, I began substitute teaching in hopes of getting hired full time. Through these efforts, I was hired to teach a variety of different math classes to 8th grade students. I worked in this position for four years, along with sharing my love for baseball by coaching at the high school.

I have always known that I enjoy learning new things, and I think this is why I also enjoyed teaching. Not only was I teaching math in the classroom, but also teaching life and study skills. I was able to share life lessons with the baseball team, and teach them the value of hard work. It was because of many of these things that I knew I wanted to try to continue working with students. 

When I heard about the job opening in enrollment at Juniata College, I was quick to apply without putting much thought into it.  I figured, all I have been doing for the last 9 years of my life is interacting with high school and college aged students, and now I could continue this from a different perspective. What I expected to be constant interaction with high school students turned out to be a bit different than I had originally anticipated.

  When I started my new role in September, I needed to quickly learn many new things about Juniata College. Being someone with a background in math, I was naturally drawn to numbers, and what they show. I found myself heavily researching for graduation rates, average GPA, internships, retention rates, and how well prepared Juniata students are for their careers. The first two weeks of my new career were focused on nothing other than learning about Juniata. As you can imagine, this was slightly stressful in that everything was new. There were days where I learned many new things, but for each answer that I found, I created two new questions. After two weeks of learning everything I could about Juniata, I was ready to visit high schools and college fairs to share some the many opportunities that Juniata has to offer.

For the next six weeks, I spent between three and four days traveling. I would visit high schools, college fairs, and schedule meetings with students individually. When I met with students, the interactions were almost exactly what I had envisioned. What my mind had simply not processed was the time I was going to have between each of these interactions. Some schools would have a few students for me to speak with, others would have one. Sometimes, I would walk into a school, speak with a counselor briefly and learn that no students had signed up to learn more about Juniata. 

The second thing I quickly realized about my new profession was how important it was for me to be organized. I needed to make sure I was responding to emails from my coworkers, students, and other contacts in an orderly fashion. I needed to keep track of the interactions I had with students on the road, along with the students I met with on campus so that I could follow up with more information about what we had discussed. I needed to plan my future trips to make sure I was creating valuable interactions with students that were interested in Juniata. I have always been an organized person, but I was in need of a few small changes to notice the benefits. 

I think one of the most challenging things I learned was how to evaluate an application. When I was in a classroom, working directly with a student, it was easy to see the way they processed information, and how hard they worked. I could ask them follow up questions to see how well they understood what I was teaching them. When reading an application, we can’t see all of the little things that could have a large impact on your success at Juniata. We don’t see the dedication you have to learning, we don’t see the challenges you have overcome, we don’t see how much of a leader in you will be in our community. We get to read about them, but we don’t get to see you experience them in person. 

As I think back about these things that I have learned, I quickly realize how important each interaction is with a student. Even though I cannot share every detail about the college, I know that what I do share can help a student ask more questions. I have found how important it is to learn about each of the students that I work with as it helps me understand the things that I read on their application. I have become much more appreciative of the time that the students take to talk with me and inquire about Juniata, as it helps both of us learn.