Aaaah. The group that you picked, and that picked you! A treasure trove of information awaits when you survey families that are newly enrolled at your school.
- They have (probably) just gone through the admission process at more than just your school, so have front-of-mind the ways you knocked it out of the park and ways other schools managed their process more effectively.
- You picked them, and they picked you, fitting them into the ideal customer persona that you are trying to get more of. What matters to them is, in theory, a "perfect fit" for what you should be focused on.
- They are excited about your school and have a lot of skin in the game in this moment, so they are likely to be more responsive and forthcoming than in subsequent years as “current” parents.
A survey of newly enrolled parents can be simple, asking a couple of key questions such as “why, ultimately, did you choose our school?”, or, you can use a very detailed survey in order to dive in more deeply.
Don’t be afraid to ask about ways you can improve your process, as well. Again, these are friends and fans, and you want to attract more of people like them! So, their constructive advice is very useful.
Many schools will use online surveys for this group, which can be very effective. To uplevel your efforts, offer an opt-in phone call for follow up. Remember that it is hard to capture emotion and story online, so the phone call route generally garners more complete information.
If I can be of any assistance as you develop your surveys or in the interpretation of them, feel free to reach out at any time. I’d be happy to hop on the phone to help!
We are very excited to begin work with Mulgrave School in Vancouver, BC on enrollment feasibility and planning work. Our work will take place over the summer.
Mulgrave is a co-ed, prek-12 school located in West Vancouver. It offers the IB curriculum to nearly 950 students. The school is enjoying robust enrollment and is doing a deeper dive into qualitative and quantitative data sets to support their strategic enrollment management efforts.
If you haven't already, it is time to start planning for exit interviews for families graduating or departing your school early. Sometimes exit interviewing is thought of as the ugly task no one wants to do, or has time to do, as the year comes to a close. Admission offices typically have the best of intentions - they will invite each family in to discuss their experience, the event will end with warm fuzzies, and a potential bad-blood marketing problem will have been avoided.
In many parts of the country, admission offices are taking a deep breath, or are just about to take that breath...
It is ever so tempting to stop here. You have enrolled great new families, you've adeptly handled your waitpool, you have gently managed any denials. But there is a huge, HUGE opportunity in front of you: surveying families with varying admission and enrollment decisions.
A couple of years ago I had the privilege of participating in a workshop led by Leadership & Design, a professional development firm based in California. The workshop was focused on bringing design thinking to the admission process.
In my work with enrollment managers, I often hear about the frustrations associated with being part of middle management. The truth is that middle managers across many professional fields face similar struggles: a tremendous amount of responsibility without a lot of control. You are responsible for enrollment, and you carry essential knowledge about both internal and external communities. You may be the only person with one eye on each. But you aren’t the decision maker regarding staffing, programmatic priorities, or scheduling. You certainly don’t want to be in the middle of what can become a complicated landscape of personalities and priorities.
While this conundrum is not unique, the circumstances are specific to your school. However, there is one thing that all schools can do in order to support the difficult position of being in the middle: procure great data.
The combination of both quantitative and qualitative data is powerful and clarifying. Armed with real numbers coupled with qualitative information, you have a much stronger leg to stand on when discussing feedback and recommendations with your leadership team.
You still may not be the decision maker, but when you walk into the room prepared with a well constructed portfolio of data, your chances are much better that you can influence the direction and strategy your school chooses in support of enrollment goals.
To start, consider running a demographic trend projection report for your service area to learn, in broad strokes, what the market conditions may be in the coming years. Couple this with qualitative information and you will be in a much stronger position to make your case for the strategy you want to put in place.
Many schools call their enrollment management offices by the name “admissions”. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that title, admissions is actually a very small piece of an integrated strategic enrollment management approach. The admissions department at a hospital is a great analogy; the admissions department is where you go to fill out paperwork, jump through hoops, and, eventually, be “admitted”. This is clearly not the only function of what we call the “admission office” in schools.
As part of a strategic enrollment management program, “admissions” is defined as the actual activity that families engage in as part of the application process. While some schools enjoy deep waitlists and a very comfortable pool of potential families, the reality is that most tuition driven schools must constantly be recruitment-minded; that is to say, admissions functions must remain focused on outreach, promotion, and marketing.
When evaluating your own admissions functions, consider spots where families may hit hiccups in your process. Is it easy to schedule a visit? Are recommendation forms readily available? Is your phone system simple to navigate? Also consider how you might integrate marketing activities into admission tasks. How are you using the time when students are being evaluated to engage with parents? What follow up are you doing after a student visit? How are you interacting with recommendation writers?
An effective strategic approach to admissions functions includes an understanding of and commitment to an outstanding level of service. There is no room for anything other than personalized visit experiences, smooth transitions between levels of the enrollment funnel, and gold glove treatment of applicant families. Each distinct step in your admission process is an opportunity to more deeply engage the families in your funnel. The summer is an ideal time to reflect on each of these moments and, if needed, develop more fully your touch points with potential families.
(This post first appeared on www.iansymmonds.com)