Enrollment directors are responsible for bringing in the majority of revenue for our schools, but they aren’t always invited into leadership circles or involved in decision making. How would you characterize the relationship between enrollment and leadership at your school? Great? Getting there? Nonexistent?
Unfortunately, sometimes leadership doesn’t fully understand that enrollment and marketing are an essential function of operating a school. And, if school leadership puts pressure on the enrollment director to be the main person responsible to “fix” declining enrollment, he/she may be missing the point.
Here are 10 things your enrollment director wishes leadership knew:
1. Being an enrollment director is lonely.
They need access to networking, training and professional development. Here are a few resources to provide them:
- Emails lists: isminc.com, Admissions Gurus (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Facebook groups: Schneiderb University, InspirEd School Marketing
- Online communities: AISAP (Association of Independent School Admissions Professionals), EMA (Enrollment Marketing Association)
- Storytelling – Brains On Fire by Robbin Phillips, Greg Cordell, Geno Church, Spike Jones
- Customer Service – The Celebrity Experience by Donna Cutting
- Social Media Best Practices – Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk
- Marketing 101 – This is Marketing by Seth Godin
- Podcasts specific to private schools:
- Watch YouTube videos: Rick Newberry – Enrollment Catalyst YouTube Channel
2. Admissions and marketing are a lot harder than they used to be since millennials choose schools differently.
Pre-COVID, there were a million different ways people could find out about your school. Your website was your virtual open house. A beautiful, mobile responsive website was nonnegotiable before COVID. During COVID, this is even more important. Your website should be relevant, updated, and allow millennial families to imagine their kid in your school.
Millennials put a huge premium on peer advice and will reevaluate their school choice every year. Online resources are their number one parental influence. Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth-marketing in a mom’s Facebook group! You must know what people are saying about your school online. Social media is the new word-of-mouth, and it is extremely important to track what is going on there.
3. Think of admissions directors as enrollment managers, not just admissions.
There are countless titles for admissions and enrollment directors. Examples include: Admissions Coordinator, Director of Admissions, Dean of Admissions, Admissions Associate, etc. But, the role is bigger than just getting new students into the school. My favorite title? Chief Experience Officer. It might not work for all of us, but it has a great idea behind it. It is that person’s responsibility to ensure an incredible experience from inquiry all the way to graduation.
We can learn a lot from higher education. The concept of strategic enrollment management comes from higher ed. Higher ed has evolved around this concept for a very long time, so take a look at what the colleges and universities in your area are doing to manage enrollment.
4. Give your enrollment director a seat at the leadership table.
Enrollment directors handle almost 100% of the school’s revenue (97% tuition and 3% other). Is your enrollment director…
- Involved with you in setting strategic goals?
- Involved in accreditation teams?
- Involved in setting tuition?
The enrollment director knows what is coming down the pike, so let them have some input. Let’s see an example of how important the job of an enrollment director is:
- Tuition = $7,000 per child. If that child stays at the school for kindergarten through 12th grade, then that is $123,990 in tuition revenue (assuming 5% annual increases from 1st – 12th grade). If they leave after kindergarten, that’s $116,990 in lost revenue. If they leave after 5th grade, it’s $85,311 in lost revenue. The lost revenue of that child after 5th grade is equivalent to about two teachers’ salaries. That’s how important enrollment and retention is!
5. Give enrollment directors a voice at the board level.
The board of directors should not only know who the enrollment director is but also rely on them because they are the expert. The board’s role is fiduciary in securing the school’s future. The board typically sets tuition, which must take enrollment and growth into consideration. The enrollment director is constantly looking at the data. For example, they may see that a kindergarten class coming up in two years is unusually small. An enrollment director understands that that will have a ripple effect for the next 12 years. Do not make them go to every meeting, but make sure to extend an invitation to the enrollment director. Leadership should be a liaison between the admissions director and the board.
6. Give enrollment directors access to interact with the faculty.
There needs to be a relationship between faculty and enrollment. When a family is touring a school, they will want to see a classroom and a teacher doing his/her job. If there is a relationship, then faculty will understand the importance of allowing a classroom tour. If there is not a relationship between faculty and enrollment, the faculty may feel uncomfortable with tour visits. As a head or principal, you should facilitate and encourage this relationship. Encourage your enrollment directors to go to faculty meetings because it helps them know what is going on in the classroom and among faculty.
Encourage enrollment directors to be totally transparent with faculty as well. Share survey results, retention stats, numbers, goals, etc. Faculty needs to know what families are saying. It is easy for faculty to be focused on only their classroom and the subject they teach, but everyone plays a role in retention, so it needs to also be a priority. When enrollment directors share real numbers, statistics, and goals, then everyone at the school is on the same page.
7. Make decisions based on data from your enrollment director.
Enrollment directors are drowning in data, so let them know what data you need. Do you need conversion rates? Want to know why families are not coming back? What are the trends since the school started tracking highs and lows in enrollment? Your enrollment director knows.
8. Encourage enrollment directors to experiment and take risks.
Let them try new things, especially if they have declining enrollment. Support their crazy ideas. Help them out when they need you for blogs, videos, etc. Understand how important social media is.
Even after COVID-19, virtual admissions, virtual open houses, and virtual tours still need to be a choice for families. The virtual admissions processes are convenient for families now and will continue to be in the future.
9. Facilitate teamwork and have one message.
Everyone will be on board if leadership is strong. Strategic enrollment management means being informed by data, advanced by messaging. Every single area of the school must share the same message – the principal, enrollment, marketing, business manager, faculty, and families – all need to work as a team. It is not an option to have silos. The enrollment manager’s job is to tell the school’s story, but the faculty has the stories!
10. Encourage your enrollment director to have a life!
Enrollment directors have a lot on their shoulders. They know if they don’t bring in students and facilitate retention, then the school will not be sustainable. With good leadership though, enrollment directors will not feel that way. Encourage them to reply to emails while they are at school, not at home while making dinner. If enrollment directors turn off their emails at 5 p.m. and respond the next day, the school and email will still be there. Customer service is important, but families will understand that you have a life outside of work.