For the past 39 years, Patty Croom served as the admissions associate director in the Office of Admissions, as well as assistant director for Application Services in Accounting and Information Systems at Michigan State University. In her role in international admissions, she led the recruitment and admission of international undergraduate students and U.S. students living abroad. Croom joined MSU in 1984 and retired in 2023.
I feel blessed to have had so many excellent opportunities during my four decades at MSU.
I had been working in consulting in the auto industry when I first came to MSU in the 1980s. Cars are not really my thing, but when I came to MSU and could see our “product” in the students walking around campus, I knew this was where I belonged, and I fell in love with working in higher education.
I got two degrees while working at MSU and made a significant career change moving from IT to Admissions mid-career. Working in IT exposed me to a broad swath of university business functions; one of my last projects included helping MSU create new software to respond to government regulations on managing international students at U.S. universities. This opened my eyes to the field of international education.
After about 20 years I finally realized that my career was not IT, but higher education. A job in international admissions opened at MSU as our population of students from overseas was burgeoning. I come from a family of educators, and I’ve always loved learning about other languages and cultures. I found my new home in international admissions, and I never looked back.
The university has changed a lot in four decades — especially the technology in recruiting students. When I started in the Office of Admissions, we were still reviewing paper applications and files, which were later keyed into the system. Plus, all the marketing promotions were paper-based. Technology updated gradually and then, in my final two years in admissions, we implemented an admissions system that holds all the relevant information we need. We use that system to make admissions decisions, for marketing purposes and to track student interest and progress from an initial activity/inquiry through matriculation.
Additionally, applicants now expect and have access to their admissions status, emails and other personalized information at their fingertips. In response, our technology and social media marketing must be much more relevant and targeted. While the role of an admissions counselor remains fundamentally the same, we’ve had to grow our marketing and communications team to keep pace with student expectations and the competition.
Indeed, over the last 10-20 years, the admissions landscape has become much more competitive. A few reasons include students applying to many more schools, the rising cost of education and the increasingly competitive recruiting of international students. To provide quality, affordable education that meets the needs of students and the larger community, successful institutions will need to look carefully and strategically at who they are, whom they serve, and what kinds of programs and courses they teach. The future of admissions is inextricably tied to the trajectory of the institution in which it operates.
MSU is a much larger, more diverse university than it was in 1984, serving ever more students and external stakeholders. This means there is the potential to change even more lives!
One caution for admissions in the future is to not lose the title of “counselor” in our titles. We are called admissions counselors for a reason. The college decision is one of the most impactful, both personally and financially, for a student and their family. We are helping these very young people make one of the most important decisions of their lives. The best admissions counselors create warm relationships with prospective students and give them accurate information to help them make a (often difficult) decision that truly fits their needs. When the fit is right, we find true Spartans!
Without a doubt, it is the people I worked with that made working at MSU a joy. People don’t work in higher education to become wealthy; they work here because they believe in the mission and see how we make a difference every day. The teams I have led and worked with are filled with incredibly bright, hard-working, passionate individuals. True Spartans are proud, yet humble; they roll up their sleeves and work together to get the job done. This is what I have experienced at MSU time and time again over my four decades.