SSATB is pleased to partner with the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education's Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice (CERPP) to provide scholarships to and guidance for independent school enrollment management professionals to enroll in the online Leadership in Enrollment Management Certificate program.
by Elise Morgan, St. Mark’s School (MA), SSATB Scholar in USC/CERPP’s Leadership in Enrollment Management certificate program.
As I embarked on my journey this fall as an SSATB Scholar in USC’s Leadership in Enrollment Management Certificate Program, I knew that I was going to be inspired, intrigued, and of course, learn a lot. I have worked in independent school admission at three different boarding schools over the past 16 years and it is remarkable how much the job of enrollment management has grown and evolved over those years. The certificate program has gotten me thinking a lot about how the enrollment management job is about creating a partnership within your school community.
There are many different definitions for enrollment management; ultimately they all point towards a comprehensive, data-driven approach designed to identify, engage, enroll, and retain mission-driven students. The admission office certainly can’t do this all by itself - it takes the entire community. How do you get your faculty, staff, administration, parents, alumni, and students engaged in the enrollment management process?
At St. Mark’s School in Southborough, MA we have identified several ways to involve the whole community. In this blog I highlight a few of them:
1) Faculty, Staff and Administration: Faculty and administration buy-in is vital to what we do in admission. They need to have an understanding of all of the work that goes into enrolling each student, and then the importance of each student having a good experience at our school so that they stay for four years. At St. Mark’s, all faculty, several staff, and administrators give admission tours. When our prospective families arrive for their campus visits, a faculty, staff or administrative member takes the parents around on tour and a current student tours the student. Having our faculty, staff, and administrators involved at one of the first points of contact with our prospective families has been incredibly important in allowing them to see firsthand all of the work that goes into making the admission experience so personal for each family. It is also an essential component in engaging our prospective families.
Many faculty read admission files at St. Mark’s and are involved at various levels during the file review process. We have a specialty committee made up of our director of academics, associate director of academics, director of athletics, director of counseling services, director of community and equity, and director of academic support involved in reviewing admission files as well. By engaging our faculty and administrators in the actual enrollment process, we have worked to create an environment where there is a deeper understanding of the importance of our work, how much attention is given to each application, and how much time and energy goes in to enrolling each student. They help us to identify and enroll the right fit students for St. Mark’s.
Retention is vital. Every single employee at St. Mark’s is responsible for both enrollment and retention. By keeping the lines of communication open and involving multiple members of our community in the admission process, we have been able to get everyone on board so that those in academic leadership positions are open and willing to make changes to our program delivery to positively impact our student experience, which in turn keeps our student attrition low. Curricular innovations in the last three years include our Global Citizenship opportunities, STEM Research Fellowship, Gray Colloquium, History Research Fellowship, and the addition of classes in the field of engineering.
2) Communications and Marketing: How do we identify and engage mission-driven students? At St. Mark’s we have a newly-designed brand messaging platform. Our communications and marketing department has been holding training sessions this fall for our administrators, admission officers, parent volunteers, and faculty members to provide our community with training on how best to use our newly-designed brand messaging platform when talking about St. Mark’s. As we seek to find the “right fit” student, it is critically important that our most public communicators of the St. Mark’s brand be “on message” when promoting the school.
3) Professional Learning Conversations: This year we started discussing one enrollment management article each week in our weekly admission team meetings. Readings have come primarily from my Leadership in Enrollment Management course and recent articles include: "Enrollment Management: Key Elements for Building and Implementing an Enrollment Plan" (Ward), "Measuring Return on Investment in International Student Recruitment" (Darrup-Boychuck) and TABS REPORT #6: Enrollment and Migration of U.S. and Canadian Boarders. These articles have sparked important conversations regarding how we think about our recruitment approach with respect to identifying and engaging prospective students. Should we be utilizing our alumni differently? Targeting and identify geographic areas differently? Showcasing our campus in a different way? Running our open house differently? The conversations are ongoing.
4) Parent Ambassadors: We are fortunate to have a robust group of parent volunteers who greet families in our admission parlor, chat with them while they are waiting for their interviews, and share their personal stories and experiences of going through the admission process and having a child now at St. Mark’s. This type of personalization in the admission process has helped significantly to engage our prospective families.
Our prospective families need to feel a personal connection to our schools; a common language needs to be used when talking about our particular school, and those in academic leadership positions need to be open and willing to make changes to our program delivery. Making our current student experience positive keeps our attrition low. Getting everyone on board is hard work, but if you are successful you should see positive outcomes. Enrollment management is a partnership. It takes the entire school community to identify obstacles and challenges and then follow it up with a strategic, tactical, and data-driven plan.
About the Author
Ms. Morgan joined the admission team at St. Mark's in July 2007. She graduated from Williams College and has an M. Ed from Harvard University. She also spent six months studying at University College London and traveling throughout Sweden, Italy, Austria and Scotland. Prior to joining St. Mark's, Ms. Morgan worked in admissions at both Lawrence Academy and Cushing Academy and spent time working at Harvard University in the Office of the Dean of Harvard College. Ms. Morgan coaches the girls' junior varsity lacrosse team, is a faculty advisor and is a dorm affiliate.