by Frankie Brown, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, Sidwell Friends School (DC)
If your school is one of the lucky ones with a healthy wait pool of families still clamoring to be admitted (even though the contract binding date is looming) and you are even slightly over-enrolled due to a better-than-expected yield, you might have already determined your team's level of admission season success. You've done some important things well and dwell in a market that understands your school's value. Allow me to offer you a virtual high five as you float out of your office each day and retreat home to rest peacefully and plan a restorative stress-free summer. For those of us who are not quite in that position and are wondering where the next mission-appropriate applicant is going to come from, I hope you'll find some light in this piece and will be able to assign some level of success to your team even though the numbers aren't quite where you need them to be. Whether admission life is good right now or leaves a few things to be desired, the following list should be kept handy, because success takes many forms and these ideas may help you find ways to further improve.
As you look back over the year, how many unfamiliar schools are represented by the students in your inquiry and applicant pools? Do you see two or three or seven or ten new schools? How did those applicants fare? Have you opened a new channel for applicants to enter your process in upcoming years? How will you nurture this new relationship? Who else in your school will appreciate this information? In my book, this is an important metric to measure. The introduction of new schools to mine is something to celebrate!
Did your head of school have fewer disappointed affiliated or preferential families make appointments to see him after they received a handwritten deny note or phone call or in-person meeting with you? If so, great! You have taken good care of your families and you have protected your head from awkward conversations. They clearly understand your process and criteria and, while still sad about the result, know you have done your best to hear them and give a fair assessment of their child's application.
Related to the above, did you or members of your admission team receive notes of appreciation from applicant families even if they were put on the wait list or were denied admission? Don't be cynical. These, too, are marks of success! These are families who have probably learned a great deal about your school and their child through your eyes and that says a lot.
Finally, run through this short list and see how well each item applies to your team. If you're answering with exuberant yeses, have a piece of chocolate and stop worrying. If not, have the chocolate anyway and sit with your team to figure out how you can get better together:
- Does our team feel like a strong team?
- Are we enjoying our work?
- Do the faculty and staff we rely on respond positively to our requests?
- Have we attended enough classes and school events to accurately tell the school's story to prospective families?
- Have we offered one another good feedback about admission events or communications?
- Have we communicated effectively with current families, school placement counselors, and other external organizations who may send students our way?
- Are we keeping current with local, regional, and national admission trends?
- Are we ready to face a new season and become stronger admission professionals?
Being responsible for our school's greatest revenue stream is a high-pressure position, and it's one we don't take lightly. For now, give yourself a break and find those moments where things have gone well. Success is not only about hitting THE number. As Winston S. Churchill is credited with saying, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." Measuring success in other ways will help you find the courage to continue and your school will love you for doing so.