As of now, most private schools across the country have sent out decisions and are anxiously awaiting enrollment confirmation from admitted students. The few months post-decision have potential to be a challenging transition as various departments move enrolling families to become full members of your community. Admission offices must focus not only on season wrap-up but also on guaranteeing an easy, positive experience for new students and their parents/guardians. Families should continue to have a high level of excitement about your school and feel they made the right choice by enrolling; the transition period is key in maintaining this enthusiasm.
Families are used to a high level of customer care and responsiveness while applying, and understandably will continue to reach out to their contact in the admission office rather than a divisional director, registrar or advisor. Although new families have officially completed the application process, admission officers should consider themselves experts in the entire transition.
Get in the know
The admission director should be familiar with all the letters and forms being sent to enrolling students. Look for consistency in communication. Ensure events are referred to by the same name by all departments. Does your placement exam schedule take into consideration the spring breaks or class trips of your biggest feeder schools? Are there too few or too many mailings? Do your course sign up events run smoothly? Does the timing of your summer school registration work for new students, too?
I encourage associate directors and admission committee heads to also be included as much as possible. A committee head, for example, will know the incoming class so well that he/she would be a great resource when pairing new students with a buddy or putting together advisory groups. The admission parent volunteer coordinator can help best connect new families with current ones. Tour guides may provide insight on how best to run your revisit day. Admission directors are often considered “the” representative from the office. Reach out to others on campus who can offer valuable insight, even if just in small ways.
Does every member of your admission team know the dates for not just enrollment materials, but class registration? Placement testing? What about bus forms and athletic participation paperwork? I found it helpful to put together a “cheat sheet” to keep by my phone with information about dates, event details and the correct contact person for each. Then, when a parent/guardian called, there wouldn’t be a need to transfer immediately and I could provide the contact name at the end of the conversation for future follow up questions.
Strategize and plan together
While I am not a proponent for having meetings just for the sake of it, I see high value in scheduling a few short conversations throughout the year to discuss the new student transition. Include your admission assistant, divisional assistant, registrar, athletic assistant, placement exam coordinator, and anyone who has a hand in the process of new student becoming current ones (perhaps even your summer school director or transportation coordinator).
Consider: who is sending out required forms (either by mail or online)? Who is tracking the receipt of these items? Is the same information going out too frequently or infrequently? You may be surprised at how quickly you can streamline the workload once everyone is in the same room.
The best time of year to start is this spring. Schedule an initial meeting now, and ensure all attendees are taking notes of what does and doesn’t work in this year’s new student transition. This will serve as a fantastic base for planning ahead, and will make it easier to remember the small details that often get lost over the summer.
Regardless of the size of your school, enrolling new families takes time and effort. Above all, though, I hope you remember the excitement these students have as they join your community. Try to stop by new student events, even if you don’t need to be there. Whether the children are 5 or 15, they are embarking on a journey of learning and friendship. Being present to see that enthusiasm is a great reminder of why all your work is worth it.
Margaret Hardy, marketing manager, joins the Ravenna team after 10 years in admissions and student life. She has experience at the college and graduate school level, however has dedicated the majority of her career in admissions in K-12 independent schools, including the Webb Schools in Claremont, CA, and the Bush School and Lakeside School, both in Seattle, WA. Margaret was also the first user of Ravenna 4 years ago.