If you have worked in school admissions for a while, you’ve probably noticed a change in the ways prospects are learning about your school and how schools are responding to prospects’ interest.
I’ve observed this admissions shift in numerous schools in recent years and have seen that while some schools struggle, others have turned their enrollment numbers upside down. An important key to this shift is in the mindset of the school’s admissions team. Successful admissions teams realize that the whole admissions process is not about them or portraying their school in just the right way. The admissions process is really about one thing. It’s about them... the family and the particular challenge that is before them.
Admission directors and supporting personnel are instrumental in a prospective parent's journey to selecting a school for their children. If admissions professionals aren’t taking the focus off of themselves and listening carefully to potential customers, parents will often feel misunderstood, undervalued and, in turn, walk away.
Here are 5 situations where admissions directors must remind themselves that the admissions process is not about touting the school’s competitive athletic program, slick technology devices and impressive SAT scores (although those things do matter). The admissions process is about guiding the prospect through the buyer's journey in a way that is meaningful to them. Let’s take a look at some ways you can help move your admissions procedures from good to great:
ONE: Communications between Admissions and Marketing
Effective admissions directors frequently communicate with the marketing department about the challenges and questions that prospects are talking about. Admissions staff are constantly hearing from prospective parents about their concerns and challenges. These pain points can be addressed to meet the particular needs of your parent personas through website content as well as paid search ads, blog topics and email workflows.
It’s important to draw attention to how students are benefiting from the program your school offers. For example, if your school offers a technology and media center, prospects will be more interested in learning about the impact on student learning than viewing a list of devices and instruction available to them.
TWO: In the School Shopping Process
Today’s parents know more about your school than you realize. By the time you are aware of them, they have already thoroughly searched your website, followed you on social media, talked to their friends about you, and read all the online reviews they could find.
They arrive at the doors to your school with an impression of what your school is all about. Hopefully your marketing team has positioned your school truthfully, positively and set you up to show prospective parents first hand that all they already know about the school is indeed true.
Embrace the “school shopping” process and provide tools like checklists and ebooks on how to select a school. Admissions directors can help position the school as the confident helper, guide, and partner for families in the community. Consider offering prospective parents a downloadable checklist of things to look for when taking a tour of a Christian school.
THREE: When Giving a School Tour
The school tour is key in a prospective parent’s decision making process. One of the best things an admissions director can do in the first few minutes of meeting a new family is to find out what brought them to the school. Tailor each tour to meet the needs and questions of the particular family. Do they need aftercare? Is mom looking for ways to be involved at the school? Are they concerned about tuition? Anticipate their questions and help them feel that you already know and understand their family’s unique needs.
One wonderful thing that Christian schools can offer to parents is an opportunity to pray about their school decision. When a family arrives for a tour, I often like to bring them into a conference room and spend a few minutes learning about what has brought them to the school, what needs they have and then pray with them. This time allows me to customize the tour to their real pain points and challenges and not have to show off how much I know about the school and try to sell them on something they don’t have an interest in.
The time of prayer can be a blessing to the family and demonstrate that you are truly concerned for them.
Its also important to take the opportunity to show parents through the telling of stories of how the school is transforming the lives of students. When you are with a prospect on a tour, stop and spend a few minutes chatting with a teacher or student. Help them to envision their family as an important part of your school community.
FOUR: On The Phone
Despite all the resources available to prospects online, the phone is still an important tool in an admissions director’s toolbox. Successful admissions team members are empathic and use active listening strategies. They are able to discern when a reminder phone call would be welcomed and when it may be perceived as pushy. They are able to ask difficult questions in a non-threatening way and can guide prospects in articulating their roadblocks and concerns about applying.
Phone calls are another ideal time to tell stories about the school and student body that illustrate solutions to the prospective families’ problems. When talking to a nervous parent about how their child will transition into your school as a new student, share a story with them about how teacher or staff member eased the transition of another student in a similar situation. Whatever the issue, paint a verbal picture for them so they can get a sense of the opportunities for students to be transformed through the godly culture of your school.
Establish a system for your team to keep notes about all the interactions you have with prospects. Read through them and refresh your memory about the prospect before picking up the phone. It's important to remember the goal of a phone call is to listen to the challenges a prospect is facing and address them.
FIVE: When Creating Printed Materials
Have you been telling the fascinating tale of your school through printed material but left out some of the most important characters...the prospects? As admissions directors oversee the production of printed materials, they can ensure these materials are focused on the prospect’s journey through the admission process. When a brochure, rack card, flyer, application packet, or view book is created, consider the stage of the buyer’s journey.
For example, the particular content of a school brochure might be quite different if directed toward a prospect who is becoming aware of the school rather than making a decision to enroll a student at the school.
Another example would be to create admissions materials that are focused on specific prospective parent personas. A flyer or brochure that captures information about after school activities, transportation options and extended care offerings would be especially helpful to a school’s “Bob and Betty Busy” persona.
Effective admissions team members are those who maintain a posture of humility, keep a pulse on the values and expectations of a new generation of parents, and remember that the school they get to share with prospective families could be an answer to their prayers. Stay tuned and keep reading this blog to learn more ways to move your school’s admissions procedures from good to great.