When on-campus staff meet potential students for the first time, the intake person needs to learn more before guiding the student and responding with helpful information. Experienced admissions staff sometimes call this 20 Questions because with just the right questions and excellent listening the interviewer knows a great deal more about the stranger sitting before her. The potential student also feels as if hes received some good information about starting taking classes as a new student or returning to school after many years.

The coordinators role as interviewer

The Learning Center coordinator often interviews anxious adults wondering whether college is worth the effort to pursue. Some basic rules need to be followed for these sessions:

  • Listen carefully.
  • The friendlier and more gracious you are (offering a soda pop or a cup of coffee and sitting in comfortable seats in open areas away from your desk), the easier your guest will feel about revealing his plans and hopes.
  • The questions you ask may begin very far afield from the registration form, but you will want to fill in the blanks as your visitor talks.
  • Let the hopeful student talk. Adult students have had to think long and hard before showing up to talk to you, so listen and make mental notes of the students interests and possible obstacles.
  • Do not promise more than the universities or colleges can deliver. After meeting with academic advisers, a student whose first goal was computer science may turn out to be an ideal business student.
  • Dont make assumptions from appearance, grammar, or social skills. You have possibilities to deliver, not judgments.

A few questions with a rationale for asking

How long have you been thinking about taking a class?
Generally, this is a good opening because you often learn how much planning your visitor has made to get to this point. She may tell you about waiting until her children were in school or what he is doing now lacks the challenge of what he knows he can be. He may tell you that his company has a new tuition-assistance plan that makes this possible, and she may tell you that she didnt have enough money to go on to college after high school.

Have you ever taken a college class before?
You will discover a large number of people started school and either dropped out or were asked to move on when grades fell off. You will hear many reasons why lives suddenly change at 18 or 19, and its your job to reassure that wisdom does come with age. Make sure you carry financial aid forms with you to make available when the subject of cost arises.

What classes did you like the best in high school?
You wont have to ask about what courses were hated because they will respond to this question with that information as well. This will give you the opening to talk about what interests they have now, their hobbies, their reading, and their desire to learn more.

If you didnt have to worry about money, what is a perfect job for you?
The answer to this question may give you an idea of their sense of humor or it may show you what the person would really like the opportunity to pursue.

If you returned to school, would you want to continue in <name any degree program>?
For students who have been out of school over 10 years or so, learn as much as you can about General Studies or Liberal Arts Studies or similar degree-completion programs from all the colleges and universities in the Partnership. These programs are ideal for students who may apply old credits or receive credit for life experience. It is possible to tailor a program toward student interests. Many departments and schools have a time-limit on how old credits can be to transfer into a current program.

Do you have a place where you can study?
Taking a class involves many hours studying and preparing papers. Recommend community locations where students can take time to work on class assignments, with the public library at the top of the list. Does your center have an area where students ca study and use a computer to complete assignments? Offer your centers services and technology in the very first interview.

Does your family and friends support your wish to take college classes?
Students taking classes at a distance need a steady source of support, often much more than on-campus students. Distance students often describe themselves as isolated, so help your visitor think about who can help them and listen to them when they need help. That steady hand will often be you, so take the opportunity to let them know that you will be there throughout the class or program to listen and help solve problems. You may also think of starting group sessions to share experiences and make friends who may share the same goals.

Do you feel you can you work without being pushed?
You may find a more elegant way to phrase this, but you want to spot the potential student who is probably not a good candidate for distance classes. Dont close the door on anyone, but suggest alternative ways of taking classes as well as distance classes.

Do you feel comfortable working with computers?
Do you have suggestions for the student who has no computer experience and wants to take a program over the Internet? Do you have any programs through your public school or public libraries for adults who want to learn computer basics? Do you have time to make such sessions available at your center? Do you have a Mac user who needs to use a PC for a specific course?

The interview as just the beginning

Each question should open the possibility for more questions to be asked. Your genuine interest in a potential student will not only support a decision to take classes, but will also ensure the students use of your center as a fundamental resource for taking classes. In other words, you should take this opportunity to show off what the student can use while taking classes. This is especially important for students taking Internet classes whose activities are primarily online, and may seem not to relate to a local facility.

Take advantage of your interview to let the student know what resources are available locally through your Learning Center. Roll out the Web sites you use as resources to show that a learning center can offer much more than a computer or a viewing site.

First, however, listen carefully.