Using Data to Support Your Planning

September 3, 2014 Carol Dougherty
Using Data to Support Your Planning

Crafting an admission plan for the year is driven by two equally important factors - your gut and the facts. Start off by listing your gut feelings on how the past year went: What areas do you feel were strong, and what do you think could be improved? Then use the data you’ve collected on your admission process to validate those gut feelings.

Ensure that you continually gather statistics on basic facts that are pertinent to your school. The data you can glean from the classic admission funnel, coupled with revenue and financial aid figures, are a good place to start. Once you’ve compiled those statistics, communicate with your business office to ensure that your numbers match theirs. This may seem obvious, but you want everyone on the same enrollment and revenue page.

Next, benchmark your statistics using the resources available from NAIS. Create a “cheat sheet” that quickly shows where you shine and where you need to focus compared to national, regional, and comparable school data. Read and research so that you understand the trends in the independent school market since 2008. Doing this research and comparison will provide the context that will indicate whether your experience this year is a harbinger of the future, or is an anomaly for a single year.

Invest the time to create a benchmarking group. Encourage the other divisions at your school to create and use this same group. It will create a baseline context for all the statistics your school discusses.

Identify the additional statistics that are important to your school: Is there a gender imbalance in a certain grade? Is one grade smaller than normal? Is your international population glutted at a certain grade? Make sure you know the numbers associated with the critical enrollment issues that your school faces at all stages of the admission process. Use those numbers to either support or invalidate the importance that is being placed on these issues and whether they are truly critical for your school. Often the perceptions of issues give them much greater weight than their statistical value indicates. Conducting a SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunity, Threats) analysis of your statistics will also help you to really determine what the crucial issues are for your enrollment process.

Armed with these numbers, match them with your plan for the year. Consider what you can add or cut based on your yield evaluations. Create statistical goals for your office beyond enrollment and dollar goals. Investing in a sound statistical analysis will make it easier to measure the success of your efforts.


Information Dashboard Design: The Effective Visual Communication of Data Paperback – January 1, 2006 by Stephen Few

The SWOT Analysis: Using your Strength to overcome Weaknesses, Using Opportunities to overcome Threats Paperback – October 15, 2009 by Lawrence G Fine

Cool Infographics: Effective Communication with Data Visualization and Design (2013) by Randy Krum

Financial Aid Research and Benchmarking, Mark Mitchell:

Beautiful Evidence (2006) by Edward R. Tufte

The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics: The Dos and Don'ts of Presenting Data, Facts, and Figures (2013) by Dona M. Wong

Trends - 2013 State of the Independent School Admission Industry - SSATB Special Report

Admission Industry Trends -a presentation by Heather Hoerle

Research-based enrollment and financial aid - a presentation by Jane Fried and Jim Ventre at the 2010 SSATB Annual Meeting.

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