It’s re-enrollment season, and Courtney Haindel, FACTS’ client relationship manager for the western half of the United States, is the expert you want this time of year. She’s a former director of enrollment and marketing at several large schools and loves all things enrollment, admissions, and school marketing. I reached out to her for a discussion on re-enrollment and I hope you can implement some of her tips and tricks at your own school this season.
Jaclyn: What are the biggest mistakes that schools make going into re-enrollment season?
Courtney: There are often quite a few: Not fully utilizing their re-enrollment tool, whether they use FACTS Online Enrollment or another platform, is one of the biggest pitfalls. Smaller schools with less staff are hit the hardest. When you think about full utilization, you have to think about comprehensive streamlining.
There are a million forms that should go out during re-enrollment season — often, schools don’t put every form they should into their online re-enrollment tool. At my school, we used the tool to ask for kids’ t-shirt sizes, which meant less paper forms got lost in backpacks.
It’s a game-changer. You have parents captive for 10-15 minutes during the re-enrollment process, so you have to take advantage of adding every form or question that you can possibly think of.
Jaclyn: What are some best practices for re-enrollment when you think about staffing and staff assignments?
Courtney: You need to set up your re-enrollment protocol way before you open re-enrollment. And when I say way before, I mean way before. Sometime in October or November, schools should lay out their entire process.
- Who is the point person for answering parent questions?
- Who is responsible for reviewing and accepting the re-enrollment packets?
- Who keeps track of the numbers?
Once you open up re-enrollment, there’s no turning back. It’s fast and furious, and you don’t want to be yelling across three offices, “Who can help Mrs. Smith on line three?” Spend the time in the fall to get the process completely laid out with responsibilities assigned to specific individuals. Figure out what forms are and are not necessary. Get the business office deeply involved from the beginning too.
Jaclyn: What are strategies you have used to get parents to re-enroll more quickly?
Courtney: We found that offering some type of early re-enrollment discount was very effective. It’s all in the way you market it to parents. At my previous school, we had a flat enrollment fee of $350 that parents paid in January and February, but we called that flat fee an “early enrollment discount.”
Each subsequent month — March, April, May — we increased the fee by $100 each month. Create buzz and motivate parents to re-enroll if certain grade levels are filling up. Use language like, “Only a few spots left in second grade.” This is a great strategy for targeted Facebook Ads too.
Jaclyn: Speaking of marketing to specific grade levels: How do you help boost enrollment if you notice that you may not hit your numbers in seventh and tenth grade, for example?
Courtney: Here’s the secret of a successful enrollment office: You should be able to forecast that particular scenario long before you get to a critical stage.
One of the things that people don’t take advantage of is the wealth of data available in the school’s SIS system. You want to look at reports over 3-5 years and say, “Okay, we can see that this grade level is trending low, and by the time we’re enrolling them for seventh grade, we may be 20 percent under where we need to be.”
Then you need to start proactively marketing years in advance. The data allows you to make empowered, data-driven decisions. One marketing tactic that is successful in this example is to do very, very targeted social media advertising. Facebook and Instagram are good places to start.
Jaclyn: Are there any additional benefits to re-enrolling parents as early as possible?
Courtney: Absolutely. It’s interesting to look at parents that have immediately re-enrolled. And by that, I mean the parents that get the “re-enrollment now open” email, click the link, and fill out the packet within a few days.
These are the parents that you should target to be your brand or social media ambassadors. You know they’re invested in the school, loyal to your community, and are the ideal families to do outreach on behalf of your institution.
Jaclyn: I wrote recently about how many schools are segmenting enrollment management and admissions into separate roles. How does this play into the re-enrollment process?
Courtney: In a perfect world, a school would have a director of enrollment management, a director of admissions, and one or more assistants or associates helping with re-enrollment, retention, marketing, and other initiatives. Not every school is able to staff like that, but they can emulate that model by thinking of re-enrollment as a whole school effort throughout the entire year.
You need to be of the mindset that everyone that can re-enroll will re-enroll. Responsibilities that are specific to enrollment management can be shared throughout an administrative team. Everyone can pitch in when it comes to smarter re-enrollment forecasting, figuring out if there are grade levels at risk, and working to develop marketing that targets new and existing families as needed. The most important part of this is having a seat at the administrative/management table for the person responsible for enrollment and re-enrollment. They need to be the right-hand person for the head of school and set the vision and tone for the entire school.
If you’re interested in learning more about our streamlined re-enrollment processes, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.