Behind-the-Scenes: College Admissions for Adult Students

For adult learners considering a return to school, the Admissions Office at any institution is generally their first stop on the way to a degree.

At Excelsior, a post-traditional distance learning institution founded more than 40 years ago, counselors help alleviate concerns of prospective students by answering questions about the admissions and enrollment process, individual courses, degree requirements and transfer credit. Often enough, the topic centers on the distance learning model, a difficult concept for many – especially for those unfamiliar with the online classroom environment.

For counselors, the objective is to inform prospective students not only on the process, but what it takes to succeed and earn a degree.

The Admissions Process

At Excelsior, courses are offered in eight week sessions but students begin to learn long before their first day of class.

From initial inquiry, the Admissions Office is a fountain of knowledge for prospective students on specific degree pathways. Most programs at Excelsior are open enrollment. Others, such as within nursing, require specific experience. The counselors are there to act as a guide.

Patricia Hoeg, assistant director of admissions at Excelsior.

“The Admissions Office is the first big point of contact before students are fully enrolled,” said Patricia Hoeg, assistant director of Admissions at Excelsior College. “Most questions are about transfer credits accepted and degrees offered. Other questions include financial aid and transcripts.”

Enter Excelsior’s team of trained counselors like William Nettleton. On the day Excelsior Life visited the Admissions Office, he is part of a team reviewing a prospective student’s previously earned college credit, clarifying concerns, addressing specific issues, and assisting with enrollment process.

After applying at Excelsior, each student will encounter an admission phone counselor, application counselor and application specialist. Each member of the trained team has a specific role and responsibility within the enrollment process.

Degree Requirements and Transfer Credits

Many applicants come to Excelsior with multiple transcripts from other colleges and universities; veterans often have military training that has been approved for college credit by the American Council on Education.

Excelsior helps keep tuition costs low for these prospective students through its broad transfer policy that helps turn credits into “working assets.” In 2012-2013, Excelsior accepted more than 671,000 hours of undergraduate credit from more than 15,800 newly enrolled learners. Based on Excelsior’s 2012-2013 undergraduate credit hour cost of $390, the economic value of the credit equaled $262 million – what Excelsior refers to as its Knowledge Value Index. (The current rate per credit hour is $425).

While students do not need to apply to a specific program at the time of application, some have a degree program in mind, and an admissions counselor will work with them to determine which of their previously earned credit matches their chosen pathway. While transfer acceptability templates exist for specific programs to help lessen the burden on a counselor, there is still significant legwork. In addition, courses in nursing, business, technology and even liberal arts have time limits to ensure they meet present-day academic standards.


Excelsior College offers year round enrollment, with surges occurring throughout August and January. Between the time of application and acceptance, students receive follow up calls from admissions counselors. They make sure the degree program is appropriate to a student wants and needs. Once through the enrollment process, students are assigned an academic advisor tasked with helping them through the next stage of their academic journey.

NEXT UP: “Behind the Scenes of Adult College Admissions”

On Thursday, November 21, 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm eastern, Excelsior College admissions counselors will answer questions live online, and help clarify concerns about what it takes to be a successful adult student in a distance education environment. The “Live Chats” are hosted by the Troy Record – a publication based just outside Albany, New York. For more information, visit “Live Chat: Behind the Scenes of Adult College Admissions.”