Today, the enrollment management landscape is hard. But the right tools and tactics can keep you, or get you started, on the path to success. Enrollment management teams are crucial to the success of schools. As the number one revenue generator, having a well-organized team can make all the difference in meeting, and exceeding, your goals.

 In our recent webinar with Joe Connolly, we discussed his three-step process to success in the admissions office: agreeing on a shared vision, creating a strategic plan, and implementing a project management tool. Read on to learn more or watch the full webinar for all of Joe’s tips and tricks. 

Meet Joe Connolly

Joe Connolly is the co-founder of Connolly Educational Consulting. Joe has worked in sales, marketing, business strategy, and as an independent school leader. Now, he helps school leaders adapt the strategic tools and frameworks that guided him to success in his career. As the former chief advancement and enrollment officer at Hillbrook School in Los Gatos, CA, he oversaw advancement, enrollment/admissions, alumni affairs, communications and marketing, community involvement and support, transportation, and summer and after-school programs. His experience serving as an integral, holistic connector between enrollment management, marketing and communications, development, the business office, and the academic program teams prepared him to provide tools and tactics for other schools to succeed. 

The 3 Steps to Enrollment Success

1. Agreeing on a shared mission

“Your job as an admissions director becomes so much easier when the entire school is involved in the strategic efforts of your team. We need every single person in the school to be on the admissions team.”

Joe Connolly, Co-Founder at Connolly Educational Consulting

In order to have enrollment success, you need everyone at your school on board with your shared mission. Particularly your admission, marketing, and advancement teams, the revenue-generating teams, need to agree on a shared vision. Admissions and enrollment teams generate around 85% of a school’s revenue. Fundraising typically accounts for 12-13% of revenue. And those two teams are supported by the marketing and communications team. When all three teams work together on a shared vision, it will help lead you to greater success. 

Ways to increase collaboration: 

  • Provide the development team with new family profiles so they can run donor searches (using a tool like SchoolAdmin makes it easy to create family profiles)
  • Communicating events to families: involve the admissions team and marketing teams to get the word out
  • Take the time to talk to faculty and staff at lunchtime
  • Involved the whole staff during staff meetings on budget and enrollment numbers each month to keep everyone in the loop
  • Share enrollment information in a monthly newsletter

2. Create collaborative, strategic plans

“We put a word of mouth program together and discovered that when we got our current parents to start telling our stories it made a huge difference. We had one parent who was a really well-known family photographer in the area with thousands of followers on her Instagram and Facebook feeds so we sat down with her and said “Hey, can you occasionally tell a good story about Hillbrook and repost a couple of things you see from Hillbrook every now and then?” She made a difference.”

Joe Connolly, Co-Founder at Connolly Educational Consulting

Schools need to have strategic plans, and particularly a strategic enrollment plan, in order to make sure that we are executing on the things that are important and that are going to help them succeed. 

When you look at everything you do from a strategic effort standpoint, you have to start at the beginning. Look at who you reach out to, what initiatives you run, why you do it, how you measure it, and how effective it is. Then you can look for gaps. The best way to do this is to analyze your data. When you use an enrollment management system you can find a ton of data and dig into it — look at your dashboards, surveys, funnel data, event attendance, anything you have. Then dive into each strategic effort and ask four questions. 

4 questions to ask about your initiatives: 

  1. Does it reflect who we are as a school?
  2. Is the purpose of the initiative clear in your communications?
  3. Does the timing make sense?
  4. Should we be doing it at all? Or is it something we should think about getting rid of?

Make a list of each of your initiatives and a list of new initiatives you’d like to try whether that be targeting influencers in your community, creating admissions-related blog posts, or sending out more hand-written notes. Then plan how you will measure new efforts to make sure the work you’re doing is worth the time.

“We’re always adding things to our list of things to do, but what things are we saying we don’t need to do anymore? Does it reflect our school? Hillbrook is right in the heart of Silicon Valley. The first time we created an enrollment management plan we were still doing paper applications. We were the first K- 8 school in the world to have a one-to-one iPad program and yet we had paper applications. It just didn’t reflect who we were. We needed to move to a fully online process. Think deeply and ask yourselves the four questions to find gaps in your strategic efforts.”

Joe Connolly, Co-Founder at Connolly Educational Consulting

You can even break down your plan by month and type of initiative. Particularly in the summer, it’s important to go back and look at your entire enrollment management plan. Then ask yourselves those same four questions. You have to be able to measure initiatives to make the decision of instantly shifting gears, getting rid of something that you’re doing, or improving it. 


Get expert enrollment content sent straight to your inbox.


3. Implement a project management tool

“Our whole team met weekly and we realized we needed a project management tool in order to be able to implement each of our individual strategic plans. We not only had an enrollment management strategic plan, we also had a strategic plan for development, and a strategic plan for marketing and communications.”

Joe Connolly, Co-Founder at Connolly Educational Consulting

Oftentimes creating a strategic enrollment management plan isn’t enough. A project management tool, like Trello or Asana, can help you organize your strategic initiatives, assign tasks, and provide visibility over each enrollment, retention, recruitment, and marketing item. Once you have a tool in place, you will be able to better execute your plan. 

Project management tools allow you to set up boards for different areas like social media and admissions, but still provide cross-department visibility. This way, the admissions team knows what is happening on the marketing and communications side and vice versa. One clear example of the benefits of this visibility is when you’re scheduling communications. For example, if you are about to send out re-enrollment agreements on Friday, but see that the development team is sending out a big announcement about the last annual fund pledge and the business office is about to send out a reminder about late due notices, you can avoid overburdening families and spread out communications.

Enrollment success is what every school chases, but can be difficult to achieve. With these 3 tactics, you can ensure your school builds a reliable path to enrollment success. For more examples, and tips to achieve enrollment success, check out the full webinar.

More like this