Telecounseling useful tool for recruitment

By Gus Bode

Telecounseling program is effective tool for student recruitment

Jamie Furgason sits up in her chair and stares intently at the computer monitor in front of her, nodding as she talks to Sarah, a prospective SIUC student, on the phone.

Furgason, a junior in speech-communication from Aurora, is congratulating Sarah on being accepted to the University and explaining the ins and outs of SOAR, a program that orients students to SIUC, all while sitting at a desk in Woody Hall.


Furgason is one of 12 students who work in the Telecounseling Center, where SIUC students call prospective students and inform them about what the University has to offer. The program celebrated its second birthday last month and was implemented after a consulting firm recommended that the University create a permanent recruitment program that develops relationships with prospective students, according to Dean Kahler, interim associate director of admissions and records.

Students such as Furgason work in the evenings Sunday through Thursday phoning people who have been admitted or have indicated interest in attending the University. Ellen Kirsch, telecounseling coordinator, said the goal of the program is to build a rapport with students who are considering or have chosen SIUC and make their transition to the University smooth.

We’re not telemarketers, Kirsch said. We do not make phone calls to try to get the name of SIU out there because we’re calling people who have already shown interest in SIU.

The student-workers are trained on the basics of financial aid and housing applications and qualifications for academic programs. They’re also trained on telephone courtesy and are taught a little bit about everything happening on campus.

The telecounselors use a data base system called Dialogue+ to keep files on the students called and provide the telecounselors with valuable information about the student. After speaking with a prospective student, the telecounselors can update the student’s file by entering information about the student’s level of interest and intentions.

The program is a successful recruiting tool for the University, according to Kahler, who responded through e-mail. He said many institutions have programs similar to SIUC’s but they usually don’t involve consistent contact with prospective students.

Our goal is to build good relationships with the prospective students that will assist them in having a good feeling about SIUC, as well as being provided good information about the campus, Kahler said.


Telecounselors complete different types of calling campaigns throughout the year. In the summer, they call high school students preparing to enter their senior year and let them know about upcoming open houses. Once students are admitted to the University, telecounselors call to congratulate them and ask about what programs they are interested in. The telecounselors even follow-up with students and their parents a couple of weeks after they have enrolled at the University to see how their semester is going.

Furgason said she asks students how they’re adjusting to their roommate, classes and campus life and asks parents how they feel after their child has left home and if they have any questions about the University. She said parents appreciate the calls because they are usually concerned about their child and like to know that someone cares about how they feel. She enjoys speaking with students who will open up on the phone and share some of their concerns about University life.

While the telecounselors are on the phone they can access information about most of the University’s programs and departments through a book they keep at their desk or on an internal network they have on the computers they use. Kirsch supervises the workers and stands by to look up information and answer questions the telecounselors don’t know.

Even though the Telecounseling Center has received some correspondence with the students indicating they are in some way interested in SIUC, the people telecounselors contact are not always interested by the time they receive a phone call. Kirsch said the telecounselors never criticize a student who selects a different university, instead congratulating them. The phone calls also serve as a reminder that SIUC is always an option for students who decide to go to a community college instead of a university after they graduate from high school.

I really feel like we are doing more toward changing our reputation and promoting good will out there for our future than actually changing numbers and recruiting right now, Kirsch said.

The job is a perfect match for Furgason, who said she enjoys tapping into her speech communication major while talking to students on the phone. As she ended her phone call with Sarah, a big smile lit up her face as she wished her luck at school in the fall it’s just one more student whose life Furgason has reached.

I really like talking to students who are very enthusiastic about schools and have a lot of questions and are appreciative of our phone calls, Furgason said. I know I wish I had someone call me before I came here.

Reporter Ginny Skalski can be reached at [email protected]