Emerging college admission professionals need additional data training to help better their skills, their admission departments, and their institutions, according to a white paper from NACAC sponsored by Salesforce.org, the social impact center of Salesforce. More sophisticated analyses of data shed insights into pressing concerns facing institutions, including the effects of the global pandemic, demographic shifts and the challenges facing low-income, first-generation, and historically marginalized students.

The paper, “Enhancing Data Analysis Aptitude of Emerging Admission Professionals,” is based on findings from focus groups conducted by NACAC of different levels of admission staff—emerging professionals, mid-level professionals, supervisors, and directors—to learn more about current data skills of emerging professional, the availability of data training for these staff, and the data needs of admission departments.

“Admission professionals can perform current tasks better and perform more sophisticated analyses, by learning and practicing the basics of software program functions and statistical concepts,” the paper said. “Ultimately, an admission professional trained in data analysis should have the ability to autonomously collect data, formulate questions, manage and strategically use data, and interpret and communicate data findings to internal and external stakeholders.”

David Hawkins, NACAC chief education and policy officer, said the findings confirm the growing need for additional data analysis skills across the admission professional. “These skills have become critical to our members’ current and future professional success at every level. Investing in professional development focused on data analysis skills can help the admission team maximize scarce resources and make more strategic decisions.”

Barriers currently preventing staff from using data include lack of time to practice data skills due to competing job responsibilities, outdated programs, and lack of data access.