In Part 4 – the final installment of the Enrollment Recession Series – I’ll cover how implementing an online admissions process can help you increase your inquiry and enrollment numbers and stay more competitive in an evolving market.
Step 4: Consider Your Admissions Process
How cumbersome is your admissions process? Do you allow parents and students to apply and enroll online?
It is estimated that 15% of parents won’t even consider your school if you are not providing them with the ability to apply online. That’s more than one in every seven parents! By offering parents an “apply online” button, you save both your team and parents valuable time. The added convenience also either gives you an edge or helps you stay competitive with other independent schools, targeting similar candidates.
I spoke with Christine Wemhoff, Director of Admissions from Archbishop Murphy High School, and she couldn’t agree more. When asked about applicant’s changing demands with regard to admissions and enrollment, she replied, “Parents want and expect paperwork and processes to be online and user-friendly. We were, and still are, ahead in our market for having both the admissions and enrollment process online. I think this is a very attractive feature and a great first impression for potential families.” And it’s not only attractive for parents. The same year she was hired, her school transitioned to an online admissions and enrollment process and their freshmen enrollment subsequently increased by 48%! She attributes this success to the combination of hiring a full-time admissions team and the use of a parent-focused online admissions and enrollment process.
Why “Online and Easy” Matters
In coordination with strong inbound marketing, enabling prospects to get information and apply online contributes to staggering enrollment figures. Today’s families are used to getting the information they need online and getting answers to questions without ever having to pick up the phone.
Your website can be strongest opportunity to capture inquiry data – or your biggest roadblock. Clean, clear design is important. “Inquire/Apply/Check Status” buttons should be prominent. If candidates have to weed through too much information or search too hard to contact you, they might decide against it.
Here’s a school that does it well:
Mass Communicate. Personally.
If you have already inquiries and applications online, you have access to invaluable data. If you don’t use it, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to connect with your audience.
Have a soccer tournament coming up? Well, you should be emailing every candidate that expressed an interest in soccer an invitation to attend the game. Ideally, your admissions forms feed into your database where you will have tools to send personalized bulk emails. But, even if you are keeping track of the information on an Excel spreadsheet, take advantage of mail merges or email tools like Constant Contact and MailChimp to get your message out to the right people.
Identify and Crush Inefficiencies
After reading Part 1 of this blog series, and analyzing your admissions and enrollment data, you might reveal some inefficiencies – or opportunities to improve your admissions process. Some common inefficiencies in the admissions and enrollment process include:
- Scheduling and organizing appointments with parents and candidates
- Manually entering paper forms into your database
- Running mail merges
- Chasing parents for paperwork
- Answering basic questions about the admissions process
- Creating custom contracts for different applicant subsets
- Printing and mailing forms
- Building reports with admissions/enrollment statistics for Heads and Boards
A fantastic way to discover inefficiencies is by creating a time-journal, where you can log the duration of your day-to-day activities. This will help you uncover where you spend the majority of your time and address productivity issues. Then think about the things you would love to do, if only you had the time. What activities would strengthen your relationships and help you find new ones? Extremely successful teams are doing things like:
- Talking with current students, families, faculty and staff
- Crafting the story of their school
- Writing blogs
- Recording videos for their website
- Focusing on broadening their base with social media
- Coordinating detailed communication plans based on their schools strengths
- Sending out personalized emails in bulk throughout the inquiry and application process
- Having relevant and compelling conversations with prospective families – not about the process, but about the experience
But these things take time. If time is something you are lacking, maybe the answer is simplifying your process or even expanding your team. You might also look into specialized admissions software that has tools to make you more efficient and tools to help you reach more people more personally.
No matter the solution, if you can find ways to eliminate the “busy work” and focus on the relationships, you can really improve your enrollment numbers and even be more selective.
Well, there you have it. Now, go be great!
Read the Rest of the Series:
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