Today’s admissions professionals might call it snail mail, but for Amy Jarich one postcard invite to attend a college’s open house became a window of opportunity. As a first-generation college student, Jarich and her parents didn’t necessarily know what type of schools to look at or what questions to ask admissions professionals.
On the ideal day, Jarich visited Sweet Briar College and took advantage of the opportunity to meet with faculty, the director of admission and other college representatives. With the feeling of inclusiveness and answers to her questions, Jarich left with a college visit experience she’ll never forget. “When I left that day I told my mom that this (Sweet Briar) is where I want to go to school.”
After completing her graduate degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, Jarich embarked on her first career. Non-profit and public service work became Jarich’s trade for nearly 10 years. Through self-reflection, she realized that she wasn’t going to make the worldwide impact she wanted and society’s issues were wider than the scope her work covered.
Jarich thought about what career path she’d move to. “I really went back to what helped me choose my path and thought of that open house, a kid that knew what she wanted, but didn’t necessarily know how to get it.”
Radford University, not far from her hometown in Virginia, is where Jarich started her admissions career. She reflects back on the hiring manager, who told her, “I can teach you how to read a file, but can’t teach you the other things you bring to this role.” She maintains the same values with entering admissions professionals.
Following six years of international recruitment, events, and more at Radford, Jarich moved on to a Senior Associate Dean position at the University of Virginia. At Virginia, she managed admissions operations and applications and assisted with international recruitment. “I felt like at Virginia I could put all the pieces together.”
In 2012 Jarich assumed her current role of Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of Admissions at UC Berkeley. “I came here (Berkeley) knowing that it would be a different type of challenge, but it was the right time and the next best step,” said Jarich.
Managing an office of more than 50 full-time professionals, external readers, and contract employees is no small feat. For Jarich, the opportunity to manage a large team is one reward her role brings because she enjoys watching staff celebrate after reviewing more than 90,000 applications and completing other milestone tasks. “I know the work we do here is hard, but I do enjoy a team coming together and celebrating at the end,” said Jarich.
Leading a team of admissions professionals is an honor for Jarich. Even though her team is large, she knows that everyone in admissions wishes they could add more staff during this time of year. Jarich also recognizes that you meet great people though college admissions work. “In this profession, I have met so many people with strong work ethics-individuals who have been doing this for only a few years as well as respected veterans; they are all incredibly committed to it.”
Meeting with prospective students and families is another rewarding aspect of Jarich’s position. She is constantly reminded of her own college search and how each student and family differs and sometimes needs someone to stop and guide them through the process.
Curbing the cost of higher education is one of the challenges Jarich faces in her position. As an advocate of public higher education, she knows that it’s a very political conversation about funding and resources are important to the work admissions professionals do. “I feel that even though public institutions are having to change there is so much momentum and goodness that if we push down the right path it’s absolutely possible to preserve all the history and tradition that we have at our institutions.”
Facing today’s issues to help future generations of college students is part of Jarich’s motivation for continuing to work in admissions. “I try to honor the children that are the reason we exist, not just today’s students, but the ones that come long after I’m not sitting in this seat anymore.”
Odds & Ends
The global admissions scene has changed over the course of Jarich’s careers. She worked as an international recruiter before the push for international students became a priority for admissions offices across the country after the 2008-09 stock market crash. “I remember being on a recruitment trip when the market crashed and I was abroad wondering what type of impact that (the market crash) would have on us (higher education-admissions).”
Direct contact and traveling globally to meet international students is great, according to Jarich, but she reminds us that the push happened at a rapid pace and we haven’t had time to digest it all. While the pace of admissions is a whirlwind, Jarich does provide tips for staying fresh during each admissions cycle.
Summer vacations are a must for Jarich. She also recommends that we take a breath, sit still and read a book that has nothing to do with admissions or the applications we read. Taking a step back to observe social mobility and see how far knowledge can take someone is what Jarich suggests we do to fully understand why education matters.
Speaking of education, Jarich suggests admissions professionals take care of their personal learning by considering graduate coursework or talking to their management team about professional development opportunities. For new professionals, Jarich’s advice is to latch onto something you enjoy in the work you do in admissions and take on a project or task because it’s something you might enjoy. You never know, it might lead to your next professional role.
By Curtis Morisaki