Whether we’re in the admission office or the Head of School seat, our schools invest a great deal of energy, time and money on ensuring our student assessments, communications and community are in lock step with our school’s mission. Yet many schools sometimes overlook—or even take for granted—one vital component: the admissions process. It is very possible you’re not spending enough time evaluating your admission application questions and ensuring they’re a match with your school’s mission. Application questions can create a strong first impression for prospective families during the crucial time when they’re beginning to determine their ideal school match. It’s also at this stage that we set the tone for students’ experiences at the school…and their future successes.
What’s the goal of Admissions?
Your admission process should be designed to help you discover the best applicant match for your program. If that process is in line with your mission statement, then you have “Application – Mission Harmony,” meaning your application process matches and reinforces your mission statement. However, if your mission is not reflected in that process, you risk creating dissatisfaction among families misguided by disjointed messaging.
Application – Mission Harmony Helps Align Expectations
Aligning your admission process with your school’s mission is critical in meeting expectations. If a parent is not clear on your school’s mission, you could be on a path to tension when the parent has expectations you’re not delivering upon. For example, you could have parents whose sole focus is their child’s grades and SAT scores, while your mission is focused on providing hands-on, project-based learning. Can you imagine the kind of disconnect and frustration that might arise?
Carmine Chickadel (“Chick”) has worked as a teacher and administrator in private schools for over 40 years. He has seen firsthand the advantages of aligning a school’s mission with its admission process.
“Schools that truly remain consistent with what they believe in, from their marketing, literature and initial outreach, to their application form and evaluation process…they’re the ones that hit their enrollment goals and, ultimately, are most trusted by parents,” says Chick. “When parents experience a school doing what it says, that’s a powerful thing that fuels trust, satisfaction and a positive reputation in the community.”
He believes that “Mission Harmony” is especially critical during the admission process and suggests conducting an audit to identify potential issues. Here are the elements we believe to be helpful when conducting your own Admission Audit. Consider the following:
– Review your mission statement and school objectives:
– Schedule annual reviews of your whole admission process
– How do you track and measure your school’s objectives? Do you have a strict set of KPIs?
– How does your admission process support your school’s values and mission?
– How does your mission statement compare to other schools in your area? What is different about your school versus the competition? How do you stand out? Does your mission statement reflect your school’s unique approach?
– Consider the key messages used to market your school:
– Are they in line with your mission?
– Do an overview of your entire admission process:
– How do you attract applicants? Community outreach, school tours, interviews, etc.
– Do you rely on organic word of mouth, or do you have a structured outreach program?
– Delve into the application process itself. What questions do you ask, and how do they align with your mission?
– Consider your enrollment:
– What percentage of students accept the invitation to enroll (yield)?
– Who in the Admission Office makes sure the school’s mission matches the admission process?
– Is the Admission Office under pressure to “fill seats” or are they able to make sure the mission is fulfilled, beginning with the students who are accepted?
The head of a school is usually focused on making sure the mission is fulfilled, but others at the school tasked with responsibilities outside of that can sometimes lose sight of the mission. An Admission Audit can get everyone back on track.
Yet an Admission Audit is only the first step in ensuring your school has a “Mission Match.” In the next few weeks, we’ll talk about Chick’s other approaches to make sure that your admission experience matches your school’s mission and pedagogy, including building a prospecting family persona, looking for hot spots, creating a plan to change, and measuring effectiveness.