Top Ten Tips for Midwifery Admissions Advisors

FEBRUARY 2013 Enews Articles

by Stephanie Safholm

I thoroughly enjoy my job as an admissions advisor for midwifery students. I enjoy being on the journey with them as they seek out and start something new and something they are so passionate about achieving. I have had the opportunity to be in this position for 7 years – four years of which our program was at the former Seattle Midwifery School and the past three years as part ofBastyr University. At Seattle Midwifery School I was one of 6 staff members of a tuition-supported school. We accepted 14-18 students a year and students graduated with a certificate in midwifery. Now that we are a part of Bastyr University, we offer a Master of Science in Midwifery and accept 18-20 students. My advising duties are basically the same, but now I am part of a larger school and an advising team.

Here are my top ten tips for admissions advisors at midwifery schools and programs. These tips can also be used by faculty and preceptors as they often find themselves talking about programs with prospective students.

  1. Know your program/school in and out. Recently, more than in previous years, it seems that prospective midwifery students are more savvy shoppers of midwifery education. Know the data about your program – how many graduates pass their licensing exams, how many are practicing after graduation, how many get some sort of financial aid, what is the average age of your incoming class. Update this information often.
  2. Make a list of strengths and weaknesses of your program and prepare responses to each. I keep a running list of important questions in a Word document.
  3. Be knowledgeable about the terminology of midwifery education and use it correctly: distance learning, hybrid learning, traditional learning, apprenticeships, apprentice, preceptor, practicum, clinical training, regional accreditation, programmatic accreditation, etc. I have heard different definitions for all of these from prospective students. Help them understand these terms from the beginning.
  4. Be positive about other midwifery programs and take time to learn more about them. I don’t view other midwifery programs and schools as competition – they are partners in educating midwives. I avoid answering questions or corroborating statements about other programs. I always refer people back to those schools for information BUT I do try to stop negative rumors. Encourage prospective students to visit the MEAC and NARM websites to explore other schools. [NOTE: A directory of US midwifery programs can be found in this newsletter and in the resources section of the AME website.]
  5. Have a list of resources that you give out to every prospective student by e-mail. I have a list of doula, childbirth educator, and local and national midwifery organizations. We are encouraging them to be active learners and to seek out answers for themselves as much as we are there to answer questions.
  6. Meet prospective students where they are in their journey. Many prospective students are not ready to apply to midwifery school even IF they really want to and even IF you really need that student to fill the classroom. Encouragement and support are more appreciated than trying to “sell” how great a program or school you have.
  7. Turn the “no” into a positive. Sometimes we have to say “no, that class won’t meet the prerequisite” or “no, your plan to complete the requirements in one month does not seem realistic” or “no, we cannot promise you will be able to find a preceptor in your community.” I always try to turn these statements into positives for the future midwife: “It looks like you will have to take a more current Anatomy and Physiology class so that you will be ready to start the midwifery program” or “let me help you create a plan so that you will be an outstanding applicant for next year” or “we have many connections for amazing preceptor sites and will help you find one that meets your needs even if you have to relocate.”
  8. Be honest with prospective students and applicants. Prospective students appreciate honesty.
  9. Answer inquiries in a timely manner. This is sometimes difficult for the part-time admissions advisor or if you wear several hats at your school. My suggestion is an auto response that you turn on when you know you cannot answer e-mails within 24 hours.
  10. Join the information age! Webinars, Facebook, and Twitter are all ways to get information about your program to prospective students without leaving the comfort of your office.

Let’s keep adding to this list. I encourage you to call and talk to admissions advisors or recruitment specialists from other programs. We all have a lot to learn from each other!

Stephanie Safholm, M.Ed., is the admissions advisor for the midwifery program at Bastyr University. She is a midwifery consumer, a birth doula and former midwifery educator. She lives in Seattle with her family.

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