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Admission Office folks at independent schools across the country are shifting into high gear.  The blur that is November through April is upon us.  As we are about to step into the whirlwind of open houses, campus tours, student interviews, and parent phone calls, let’s take a moment to take stock of where we are and what the new admission season might have in store. Here at Cannon School in North Carolina, we’ve spent the past couple months or so reviewing the forces at play that are giving us all heartburn each time we look closely at our Lower School enrollment numbers. We all want to jump to the conclusion that dips in population have reduced the numbers ...
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Meeting the challenges of our time The Hamlin School Mission begins, “The Hamlin School educates girls to meet the challenges of their time…” These are indeed challenging and unsettling times. It is especially important, now more than ever, to demonstrate to our students and school community that kindness counts. A simple smile and greeting to a grocery clerk, or "May I help you" to a tourist struggling to find a destination, can make a difference in that person's day. A few weeks ago I was walking past a building that had Maya Angelou's quote, " Be a rainbow in someone else's cloud," etched on the wall. Within the next 2 blocks, I was able to help 2 different ...
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Research Suggests: Be intentional At a time when schools are deluged with data, we struggle to navigate through the process of determining what data can help us improve, expand, or enhance, and what data will not position us to advance the institution.  There is no question big data has the opportunity to hugely impact our ability to live out our respective missions, but we must be intentional about what data we collect and the process through which we analyze.  To do so, simply put, requires an institutional research plan. In simple terms, an institutional research plan is a plan outlining the alignment of resources (people, methods, time) to intentionally ...
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Five Important Areas to Cover When a Family Visits Your Admissions Office Some years ago, the president of our parent association told me that “the decision to consider an independent school is the easy part.  It’s the process that follows that creates so much anxiety.”  Families arrive at an admissions office filled with excitement and nervousness, emotions driven mostly by their lack of understanding of what independent schools are and how they work.  As most new students come to our schools from public schools, these families have a lot to learn.  The key role of an admissions officer is to be a source of information as we educate and shepherd these families ...
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Navigating the Successful Campus Tour My dad has always loved to take us for a ride.  I grew up in the Hudson Valley of New York State where the winding roads and farm and river vistas are limitless and our family history is deep. Taking our rides together during my visit this summer - my dad is now 82 - there was one major change.  This time, I took the wheel and he was the navigation and storyteller along the way. I was struck that this is the key to a successful campus tour - let your prospective family do the storytelling and navigation, while you do the “driving.” In today’s market, the time to woo a family is significantly abbreviated and families’ ...
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Don’t Lose Sight of the People Numbers, numbers, numbers!  Sometimes it feels as if my job is all about tracking the numbers.  Retention numbers – how are we doing by grade, by division?  What about our new student retention rate?  How are we doing with our Student of Color retention rate?  What about our yield?  Again, how are we doing by grade, division, ethnicity, etc.   When I started in Admissions in the early 1990s, I had one very basic spreadsheet that simply tracked inquiries, applications, acceptances and enrollments.  Now I have spreadsheets for just about everything imaginable, and I am constantly thinking of statistics to add.  After all, ...
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Get outta the office…and off campus… The decisions are made, the tears are shed, the school is full (or at least getting there!)….now what? While we now view admissions as a year-round joyride, there is a small window of time after decisions are communicated and the end of school when it is actually possible to get off campus and visit other schools and programs.  In past years I’ve driven a couple hours to escape my catchment area to see a similar school with similar surrounding demographics.  This took some extra effort, but gave me the chance to freely share challenges, ideas and brainstorm with peers who weren’t competing in my neck of the ...
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Students spend much of their time within your school community. Who better to share your strengths than those who are already actively involved on our campus? A neighbor remarks at a cookout, “My daughter is so enjoying participating in her school’s orchestra.” This one comment leads to a conversation about the school’s Fine Arts department which leads to a discussion about class size. In the matter of minutes your school has been promoted, profiled, and praised! Word of mouth is the best advertisement! Family, friends, and neighbors are engaged, energized, and eager to share their experiences. School communities who encourage involvement ...
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I love parents!  They can make the work we do in Admissions so much richer when we invest time and energy into a plan.  They provide insights and information that we just don’t have access to.  The enormous influence that parents have in our schools should not be taken lightly.  While schools should be student-centered and exist for the kids, the adult interactions set the climate and tone of an institution.   Think how often parents interact with kids beyond their own children at school.  These moments contribute to a school’s culture and help make our community special. It’s smart to get ahead of their involvement with a plan to embrace , listen and ...
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Its interesting to be writing this article having just made a job move myself. I put the quotes around move in the title because I could not think of a cute way to play on words when one of the things I ponder is whether there is still a place for a long tenured, one school, professional these days? I was someone very happy and comfortable (well, tons of pressure, so lets say comfortable in a high-pressure environment!) as a Director of Admission at a school that I argued was different every year and it was! Thus, a 23-year tenure did not allow for moments of boredom. However, hard as I tried to argue that I was learning and growing, I came to admit ...
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Difficult conversations: addressing rejection Do you remember when your first crush ditched you? Or when you were passed over for promotion? Or remember when a family member said something deeply insensitive? All of us have experience in varying degrees with rejection and while no one enjoys this part of the job, rejecting some lovely and not-so-lovely families comes with the territory. At this time of year we are all receiving these sad, and occasionally angry phone calls from parents of children who we couldnt admit. All of this happens when enrollment management professionals are exhausted emotionally and fried ...
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Later this morning, I will present the idea of Continuous Enrollment to our Administrative team. As a team, well consider whether or not our school should shift away from the traditional re-enrollment every February model to a collegiate-like set it and forget it continuous enrollment model. This presentation could not come at a better time. Our admission office staff just spent the better part of three weeks chasing down re-enrollment contracts and deposits from our current families. Well, not all of our current families. Frankly, only a small fraction of our current families require chasing. And they happen to be the same families every year. ...
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ITS DECISION NOTIFICATION DAY! A fitful sleep last night for all! Up at 2 a.m. worrying, Will we make an error in our notifications? Well double and triple check. But it could happen! Should we have gone with candidate A instead of candidate B? Will we achieve our enrollment and diversity goals? Will the financial aid budget support our goals and take care of our new admits as well as our currently enrolled families? Couldnt we just find a little more money to help that one student who is at the top of our wait list? Finally the alarm rings. Fast forward to 3:30 p.m. Weve hit send. The force is set in motion. The die has been cast. Weve sent the shockwave ...
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Are you answering ( not asking ) THE key question to turn a prospect into a believer (applicant/matriculant) in your school? Heres how ice cream changed my (marketing) life: As I walked down the cute village sidewalk in Lake Placid, NY on a Saturday with snow coming down, I was thinking, in addition to, this is a beautiful village: its cold, really cold. In fact, for anyone who knows me and my sweet tooth, youd be shocked to think that I wasnt actually thinking chocolate or ice cream. A rare moment indeed. But when my eyes locked in on that sidewalk sign its never too cold for ice cream they had me. Heres why: AI was not thinking about ice ...
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Folkslisten up. Every time I hear data-driven especially data-driven decision-making in our profession, I cringe a bit. Allow me to explain. Are we really driven by data? I typed in an address in my GPS the other day and (like I often do) blindly followed the directions to my sons hockey game. But as I drove taking turns and more turns, something didnt feel right. I sort of knew where the rink was, but it didnt feel like we were going the right way. Turns out, I was right. We went off track and we were late. Points off for dad for being, literally, data driven. You might say I had the wrong search engine in my car's GPS, (FYI I was driving ...
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At independent schools, we value goodness in our students. We work hard to establish core values and expectations within our communities -- and we celebrate as students demonstrate their courage, passion, and kindness toward others. (Think Heart) At the same time, we value deep thinking and learning. We encourage our students to take challenging courses the most challenging possible -- to push their own intellectual limits and prepare for the countless other challenges they will face down the road. (Think Brain) Woven into and throughout all of this, though, are a variety of personal traits that weve come to appreciate in our students. ...
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Birds of a Feather

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There was a time when the question was asked, particularly of students in schools like ours, "Why do all the black kids sit together in the dining hall?" That question could have probably been outfitted to speak to many different races/cultural backgrounds. Arguably, it could have been expanded to "why do all the blacks and Latinos sit together...?" Well, the answer has always been obvious and (in my opinion) justifiable. Private/independent schools have been around a long time. Many in the east have much longer histories than any public school. My school's almost 243 year old history, makes it older than the country itself, let alone any school ...
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Soon after graduating from university, I began my career in private school admission. It was a natural transition having studied at a boarding school before going to university. I was inspired by the kindness of my dorm parents, dedication of my teachers and the overall feeling of community at the school. The faculty and staff who worked with me made a small school in northern New Hampshire feel almost as comfortable as my home two hours away in Massachusetts. Eager to become the role model I so appreciated as a student, I began my career in independent schools. Five years later I have learned more than I ever could have expected. Below, I have included ...
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The Admission profession has always attracted great people: passionate and compassionate people and wise, intuitive people; people who know and care about kids at all stages of development; people who care about a fair and just process; people whose lives have been transformed by education, or who have seen first-hand the transformation of others. But the world, our schools, and the role of an admission professional, has become much more complicated. It is time for the industry to respond. Indeed, the role an admission professional plays in their school and with students and families is too critical to continue without a program to train and certify ...
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The month of February is all about decision letters in the world of independent school admissions, and as a savvy enrollment managers, you know enrollment is declining. Your school may be searching for an innovative business model that will help address declining number of decision letters you're sending out! This excellent article by Mike Connor offers a unique option: examine your sphere of influence. Read the original here . Independent Schools as an industry are experiencing challenging times. Enrollment has declined 10% in the past ten years. Like private colleges, we’ve seen hard inquiries decline over 20% in that same ...
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