The optimal time of year to do enrollment searches

While there is never an optimal time to lose a valued staff member on an enrollment management team, below are some guidelines that may serve you well as you prepare to launch a search in any of the following areas. While it is important to plan carefully to conduct a search in order to captivate your candidate audience when they are most likely to be responsive, we at Spelman Johnson also recognize that one cannot always control the transitions that occur within offices. Therefore, if you have flexibility in your recruitment needs, below are suggested optimal search time frames.

I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to stress to search committees and hiring personnel the absolute necessity of adhering to an agreed-upon timeline in order for a search to conclude successfully. When a search associate crafts a timeline, they are taking into account the posting period (normally a minimum of 30 days), institutional academic calendars, critical on-campus events that may impact the search as well as candidates’ expectations. When a delay occurs in the process, candidates tend to lose interest and move on. The search committee chairperson and the search associate must communicate early and often to avoid delays and to continue to work toward the common goal of continuing the search process.


Our experience has taught us that the optimal time to begin a search in the Admissions arena is shortly after the New Year. This is because most admissions professionals are on the recruitment trail throughout the fall and will return to the office after January 1 to continue to read files, host on-campus events and cultivate prospective students. While they are traveling and meeting with prospective students and families, admissions professionals are far less likely to be seeking a new position and, therefore, are not responding to postings or outreach. Given that the average time to complete a search is 3 to 4 months, if you prepare to post an admissions position early in the New Year, you are more likely to make a hire in the spring, with an anticipated start date in early summer, after an admissions professional has seen the fruits of his/her labor for the incoming class. A summer start date for an admissions professional will allow them to participate in the development of a recruitment plan for the following year as well as observe and participate in on-campus closure and orientation events for the incoming class.

Financial Aid

We find that searching for financial aid professionals can be challenging any time of year; however, there are ebbs and flows in the financial aid calendar which may influence the strength of an applicant pool. Financial aid professionals are very busy with awarding for new and continuing students beginning in late fall and continuing through the spring, depending on the admission cycle at an institution. A late-winter to late-spring search that can potentially run into the summer may be the best time to garner interest from financial aid professionals and also position an institution to have a new professional on board by late summer/early fall, just in time to assist in the completion of end of year reports that are required by the Department of Education. With the majority of institutions operating on a July 1 through June 30 academic year, the start of the new academic year is also the ideal time for financial aid professionals to transition into new roles, as they will have completed the close-out of an academic year at their previous institution.


When is it not a busy time in a Registrar’s office? With transcript evaluations, registration, grades, commencement, degree conferral and reporting responsibilities, there is truly no best time to have a vacancy in a Registrar’s area. However, if there is some flexibility at the institution, the prime time to do a registrar search would be mid- winter/early spring so that candidates can complete their responsibilities for an academic year prior to transitioning to a new institution. As with financial aid professionals, July 1 is an excellent time for a Registrar to transition into a new role. Ideally, registrar searches should begin by early February if the goal is to have someone in place by July 1.


For an enrollment marketing position, there is a bit more flexibility in the timing of the search process. While enrollment marketing departments are busy year-round, institutions and potential candidates in this area may be a bit more flexible with the timing of their job searches, with a late summer/early fall time period being the optimal time to launch a search.

Kendra Dane

Search Associate - Spelman Johnson

Kendra Dane earned her BA from Mundelein College (now part of Loyola University) and her MS from National Louis University. During a career in higher education that spans over 30 years, Kendra has most recently served as assistant dean and director of admissions at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. Prior to moving to St. Paul, she served as executive director of admissions and marketing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), as well as the executive director of enrollment services at SAIC. Kendra began her career in higher education at National Louis University in Evanston, Illinois, where she served as an associate vice president for financial aid for many years. Kendra has been active in the Illinois Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (ILASFAA), held leadership positions in Midwest Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (MASFAA), and served in a volunteer capacity as a financial aid trainer with the U.S. Department of Education.