Best of Breed vs. All-in-One Admissions and Enrollment Software: Which is Better?

You may have heard your role as an admissions and enrollment management professional compared to that of a chief marketing officer (CMO) — and with good reason. 

Much like the head of a marketing team, you’re responsible for captivating, engaging, and converting your audience. And to be successful in this endeavor, it’s crucial you’re genuinely familiar with potential candidates, including their questions, concerns, and challenges (much like a marketer becomes an expert on the needs of potential customers).

Managing, organizing, and analyzing all the data necessary for converting leads into customers is challenging work. And that’s why marketing leaders rely on a virtual arsenal of tools to help them achieve their goals. In fact, a survey by HubSpot found marketers use an average of more than 12 different tools to manage data and campaigns — and some use more than 31.

How many pieces of technology does your independent school use to recruit, enroll, and manage its students? We’re willing to bet it’s much less than 12.

But is fewer always better? And is it smarter to spend your budget on all-in-one admissions and enrollment software, or are you better off selecting individual best of breed solutions?

Here’s what you need to know.

What’s the Difference Between Best of Breed and All-in-One?

An all-in-one solution is a type of software that serves many different functions. Sometimes these products are touted as “the only software you’ll need” for your department’s duties. They may serve multiple industries or niches.

Benefits of all-in-one software include:

  • You only have to work with one vendor
  • All functions are integrated together
  • It can be easier to roll out

On the contrary, best of breed solutions are typically designed to manage a handful of functions very well, and they’ve usually been created for a particular niche.

Benefits of best of breed software include:

  • It’s designed for users’ specific needs 
  • It offers a superior experience 
  • Generally integrates with other popular solutions

Admissions and Enrollment Software: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

For many years, admissions and enrollment professionals overwhelmingly opted for all-in-one solutions. It seemed much more straightforward, cheaper, and easier to invest in one generalized product that could handle many tasks than rolling out multiple products. 

But, as admissions and enrollment leaders (and their audience) have become more reliant (and skilled) on technology, the benefits of all-in-one solutions are failing to outweigh their drawbacks. In some cases, your software can hold you back.

Because every independent school is different, the “one-size-fits-all” style of all-in-one software often fails to meet their individual and changing needs. In most cases, you depend on one vendor to do everything — but it’s unlikely one vendor can do everything well. Too often, many functionalities are mediocre at best, and rarely purpose-built for your unique role.

Furthermore, there’s a good chance you’re paying for many extra functionalities you don’t need and never use.

What’s the Best Choice?

Unlike with all-in-one tools, best of breed vendors act more like partners who can help you address and overcome your school’s specific and sophisticated challenges. Because they’re more attuned to your needs, they’re more likely to help you meet your organization’s goals.

Of course, moving from an all-in-one model to best of breed admissions and enrollment software has its challenges, too. For example, the more complex your technology stack becomes, the more your IT department will have to manage, and the more contracts your business office will have to oversee.

That’s why it’s essential you select a software provider that offers the powerful features you need, and can walk you through the implementation process. A great vendor will help with the heavy lifting, like ensuring your data is in the correct format. And if your vendor leverages cloud (i.e., on-demand data storage), it’s easier to access what you need whenever you need it — and integrate between platforms seamlessly.

Best of all, you’ll only be implementing the products and functionalities you need, rather than launching several included products you may never use.

In the end, only you can determine whether an all-in-one or best of breed solution is right for you. However, if you’re seeking admissions and enrollment management software that’s customizable and created to address your unique needs, it’s time to explore best of breed.


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