In the University of Colorado's admissions office, there is no slow season.

Last week, applications opened for next year's undergraduate class. In three weeks, the newest batch of students will start classes on campus. And at the end of the month, CU's 21 black-and-gold-clad admissions counselors will fan out across the state and country for a season of travel.

In the fall, admission counselors visit with prospective students across the country at high schools and college fairs. In the winter, they read and assess tens of thousands of applications. In the spring, they travel again and host on-campus events. In the summer, they make their travel plans for the fall.

Laura Hamilton, second from left, her daughter, Anna, and Brent Holcomb listen to tour guide MacKenzie Vertner on Monday during one of the campus tours at
Laura Hamilton, second from left, her daughter, Anna, and Brent Holcomb listen to tour guide MacKenzie Vertner on Monday during one of the campus tours at the University of Colorado. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

"Our work is very cyclical," CU admissions director Colleen Newman said. "Admissions and higher education have evolved a lot. There used to be down time — that's what summer was. That's not the case anymore."

Newman said she thinks technology plays a part in the increased busyness of the office, as students can research colleges on their phones and quickly contact admissions counselors.

"They have access to our counselors via emails and phone calls, and prospective students will ask questions through our social media channels as well," she said. "Prospective students are constantly looking for information and wanting to learn and expect a very immediate response from us."


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On Monday afternoon, more than 100 such prospective students and their family members filled an auditorium in CU's new Center for Academic Success and Engagement to listen to an admissions presentation before fanning out across campus on tours. CU hosts admissions and tour sessions twice a day on weekdays throughout the year.

In total, 50,392 people visited campus last year.

These visits, as well as the counselors' work around the state and country, are aimed at making the application process more friendly and open to prospective students. Counselors hope to build relationships with them and their families.

"For me, (the best part of the job) is demystifying this whole process," Newman said. "I like working with families and breaking down the application process and helping them understand that we are here to discuss an academic pathway for a student. We are here to discuss an opportunity."

Right now, counselors are wrapping up their plans for fall travel, when they'll spend six to eight weeks on the road.

"Fall is really busy," admissions counselor Brittany Dye said. "That's our busiest time. Most of our staff are out of the office for almost two months, just back and forth."

Counselors stake out specific territories: Dye's encompasses parts of Colorado's Western Slope and the Pacific Northwest. In their territories, the counselors visit high schools, participate in college fairs and host workshops, as well as meet with individual students.

Dye's excited to get back on the road. In the Western Slope, for example, she is partnering with local high schools to plan events to help prepare students for the upcoming college fairs and help them brainstorm the questions they should ask when they attend them.

"That's a way that I'm trying to meet Western Slope students where they are, not just tell them all about CU Boulder but introduce them to college in a different way," she said.

Sometimes during the fall, she might be only counselor in the office as the rest of her counterparts host similar events across the state and country.

Last year, the department hosted 1,858 off-campus domestic programs, as well as 162 college fairs in Colorado.

After their fall travel season, the counselors come back from the road to review applications, submitted through the Common Application. CU's early action deadline is Nov. 15, and students who apply by then are guaranteed a decision by Feb. 1. The regular application deadline is Jan. 15, and students who apply by then are guaranteed a decision by April 1.

The counselors sift through applications online. Applications are read by multiple counselors, and individual counselors provide insights into applications coming from the territories they cover. They also work with individual CU schools and colleges — the College of Music, for example, which requires auditions — to coordinate decisions for students entering more specialized programs.

"It's important for me to have families and students understand that there are people behind the process and that people are reviewing their students' applications," Newman said. "We're reviewing every single student who applies to CU Boulder."

Sometimes, applications require more time to reach a decision, Newman said.

"We do sit together in a room for admissions committee, and we'll look at some applications together that may be particularly challenging to make a decision on or to make sure that we're all reviewing with the same lens," Newman said.

CU received 36,148 summer and fall applications last year, of which 79.8 percent were accepted.

Then, in the spring, counselors host larger on-campus events for both prospective and admitted students and travel occasionally before the cycle starts again.

Cassa Niedringhaus: 303-473-1106, cniedringhaus@dailycamera.com