The Shift from Admission to Enrollment Management

September 26, 2016 Admission Leadership Council
The Shift from Admission to Enrollment Management

by ALC Members Kimberly Carter, Director of Enrolment Management, Branksome Hall (Toronto, Canada) and Polly Fredlund, Director of Enrollment Management and Communications, The Bush School (WA)

Kimberly Carter 85

Kimberly Carter, Director of Enrolment Management, Branksome Hall (Toronto, Canada)

When I first interviewed for an admission position eight years ago, I remember my head of school saying that the role would be exciting, fast-paced and intense during the peak times for “about half the year,” but then the other times would be less hectic and demanding. This might have been the admission cycle of the past, but today’s cycle, coupled with families’ expectations, requires new skills, new initiatives, and new systems.

Thanks to the support of my head of school, making the shift from director of admission to director of enrolment management was a signal of the importance of the role and how the scope of the position has changed. For me, “enrollment management” refers to all of the procedures, initiatives, and events that promote, recruit, assess, admit, and retain students.

  • Promote: School promotional, communication, and marketing initiatives are established to ensure strong brand recognition in the marketplace.
  • Recruit: Yearly events market both internally and externally, locally, and internationally. The goal of recruitment events is to educate and establish trust with applicant families in an attempt to convert vague interest into a formal inquiry and application. It is also important to ensure that your current families are educated, informed, and satisfied with their school experience.
  • Assess: All applicants complete an online application, interview, and assessment. The assessment process is designed to enable applicants to demonstrate their academic and co-curricular strengths. Assessment is viewed as only one component of the process, which values equally the completed application, student profile responses, interview, and other supporting documentation such as report cards and selected student work samples.
  • Admit: All enrolment decisions are made by the admission decision committee. Admission works in partnership with academics and finance to meet enrolment targets and ensure stable class and grade sizes.
  • Retain: To ensure retention, we frequently conduct student and parent surveys to gather reactions to our program and school. The guidance counsellors work in partnership with the admission team as a retention committee to share feedback or concerns from students and parents. For any student who decides to not to return to the school, an exit interview takes place to glean feedback for improvement.

The shift to enrollment management highlights the importance of collaborating with all aspects of school life to meet enrollment targets. Enrollment management is no longer about simply finding and admitting students; it requires strategic thinking and planning to manage the demographic and financial realities of today’s market.

Polly Fredlund 85

Polly Fredlund, Director of Enrollment Management and Communications, The Bush School (WA)

We are more than just an open house. We are more than just a host, hostess, or cruise director. Events and a welcoming, sunny disposition are important to the culture and operations of admission and enrollment management, but we are also strategic thinkers, disrupters, game changers, contributors, and key influencers in our school communities.

The change in the name of the Secondary School Admission Test Board (SSATB) to The Enrollment Management Association is an opportunity for our profession to fully realize our complex and dynamic identity in our schools. As the largest professional development organization for admission and enrollment management professionals, the name, values, mission, and ethos of The Enrollment Management Association matters.

Executive Director Heather Hoerle shared the revised mission of The Enrollment Management Association with the membership at the Annual Meeting this September as follows:

At The Enrollment Management Association, we believe that the admission practices of the past will not sustain the independent schools of the future. Every day, we serve enrollment leaders, increasing their success through the best science, research, and training. Because when great schools enroll great students, everything is possible.

Whether your own title includes admission or enrollment management, each of us has contributions to make that are strategic in nature and central to the short- and long-term success of our schools. Our work is directly related to the school’s financial health, strategic goals, academic affairs, student quality, parent satisfaction and engagement, constituent relations, philanthropy, messaging, and branding. This collective knowledge and the relationships it entails places each of us in an optimal position to think strategically around key connections between the mission and the marketplace.

Schools that make space for enrollment management thinking at the leadership table are schools that are more likely to thrive. Admission and enrollment management professionals sit at a significant nexus between the internal and external lives of the school. We are on the ground with students, parents, and faculty experiencing the day-to-day life of our schools, while at the same time extending the school’s brand into the marketplace.

More than any other program in our schools, we clearly understand what the school is and how to express who we are. We are able to tell our schools’ stories—our values, ethos, and substance— in a compelling and comprehensive way. Thinking strategically not only allows us to recruit and retain students, but increases the likelihood that students will achieve success, remain connected as alumnae/i, and give back to their school in meaningful ways.

The new era for The Enrollment Management Association will allow each of us to consider what is possible and reach our full potential.

Christine Hailer Baker, The NAIS Enrollment Management Handbook (NAIS, 2012).
John Maguire, Lawrence Butler, and Their Colleagues at Maguire and Associates, EM=C²: A New Formula for Enrollment Management (Trafford Publishing 2008).
Garlene Penn, Enrollment Management for the 21st Century: Delivering Institutional Goals, Accountability, and Fiscal Responsibility (Jossey-Bass, 1998).
NAIS Knowledge Center: Admissions and Financial Aid
Maguire and Associates Resources

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