Summer Funnel…is YOURS full?

It’s finally summer. Well, at least it is here in Baltimore. As I sat watching a charity softball game yesterday, and saw scores of kids running around and getting autographs from their favorite NFL players, I was thinking about how schools market to this group.

In fact, it’s quite remarkable how many of our schools aren’t really sure, at this point in the summer, what kind of applicant pool they are expecting for the upcoming enrollment season. And that’s kind of scary. Do you know how many 8th graders are in your feeder school classes? How about what the birth rate is for students who would be entering school this year? Without that data, you could be looking at a REALLY uncomfortable admission season.

Over the last two weeks, Admission Pro has delivered admission and marketing reports to our clients for the summer mailing season. What’s been most remarkable about our work together has been the realization of how many students are actually in the market for a given year.

For instance, if you are a high school in a relatively populated area, wouldn’t it be good to know that there are roughly 2,000 students who match your typical family profile in a 30 mile radius? That one piece of data can mean the difference between hitting and missing your enrollment goals for the year, and if you DON’T know it, you are setting yourself up for disaster.

Of course, there is another important point to consider.

Relationships.

How can you get to know if a family is a good fit for your school, if you don’t even know who they are?

With some great early work with these clients, we were able to provide them a prospect pool of over 2,000 families that were exact matches for their school. Wouldn’t THAT be a great way to go into the summer?

So, as you are preparing for the summer break, take a second and look at your prospect pool. Is it ready to really filly your school in the fall?

Day 2…thoughts and musings…

It’s been a busy and crazy day here in Baltimore. Great sessions on video, inclusion, and changing the mindset of the educational system in general. Really engaging.

I have been stopping groups of people and asking them what’s top of mind as they reflect on the day’s activities…here is a sampling:

In order to change lives, you have to have a capacity for change as a school and as an educator….

If you are going to commit to a diversity audit (or any other high level strategic undertaking) you have to be available and willing to commit the same organizational resources to the project that you would admission or development.

To be successful, you have to provide ample time for your teams to live the mission of the school, and not pay it lip service.

The effective classroom of the future has to move from teaching to learning. Students can’t be taught, but they can learn.

Wow….some really great and deep thoughts and takeaways from the presentations today. In fact, I would even say that much of these points drive home the need to focus on “the big picture” and on the STORY  of your school, and not just the nuts and bolts.

In a conversation with an admission professional, she was lamenting her schools emphasis on statistical “needs”, (ap classes, faculty size, etc) and not the real outcome for the kids on campus. It’s a fascinating difference, and as you try to differentiate your school in the market place, it’s VITAL to know when to be emotional and when to be intellectual.

So, we move on with the afternoon sessions, and keeping the day moving. Have a great Thursday!

From Idea to Vision to Values

It’s an amazing “spring” week here in Baltimore. By “spring”, I mean that the calendar has just flipped to March, and we aren’t shoveling out for our guests at NAIS and the annual conference. There is so much to look forward to this week, and I can’t wait to share the happenings and findings throughout my travels downtown. Baltimore is my city, my home, and my favorite place in the world. I really hope you enjoy your stay…

Some initial thoughts, however, are in order for the festivities. I’d like to think that people attending this show for the first time are not going to view Baltimore through the light cast from “The Wire” or “Homicide: Life on the Street”. As educators, we strive to give our students the chance to impress us every day with creativity, thought, and caring for fellow classmates. Hopefully, those new to Charm City will be taken in by what the city has to offer, and the amazing backdrop for this fantastic gathering of collegial thought.

I will really be focused on the “Vision” part of the annual conference theme, as I believe it to be positively vital to the future of our schools. The more leaders, teachers and administrators can implement their vision, independent education will be the true beneficiary of the time and talent invested.

It is my firm belief that mission statements for most schools are interchangeable. What truly separates one institution from the next is the way that its people LIVE the stated mission. I will be chasing down examples of how people are living their school’s ‘mantra’ throughout the week.

So, that’s a starting point. Welcome to Baltimore. It’s going to be a great week, and I can’t wait to hear what you come up with.

Some tips for your NAIS conference:

    Have coffee with someone you don’t know…expanding your knowledge footprint is a great thing.
    Get some fresh air…it’s a good thing.
    Check the app for updates. Times change, locations change.
    Be social. Not just on your phone, but with those around you.
    Have a crab cake. And a Berger cookie. And ask for Old Bay on your fries.

And, when you leave at the weekend, take with you 5 big takeaways. It’s a good starting point, but don’t let your conference notes die. This is a conversation, and it should go all year long with improving your school and yourself.

I will be around and looking forward to meeting as many of you as I can. Have a GREAT WEEK, and enjoy #NAISAC.

The New England Patriots: 5 ways they are like the perfect admission office

OK, I can admit it. I am a Baltimore Ravens fan, and have been since the team came to Baltimore in 1996. I am, however, also able to spot things in other teams and organizations that I find to be really effective, and give them proper due when they are warranted.

As I was watching the big game last night, an epiphany hit me like the zing from an Old Bay Chicken Wing (trust me, you HAVE to try them). The New England Patriots are the perfect embodiment of what a great admission office is.

I know that sounds crazy (and it’s really painful to write), but I bet when you look at how these pieces come together, there is a REALLY compelling connection to the cogs in the gears.

  1. The Organization has a clear vision of the type of individuals who succeed.
    Think about your school. You have a great idea of the kinds of students who do well with you, and you know as an admission professional when an application comes across your desk if you would take them (all things being equal) pretty quickly. There is a mentality in New England, and they know “Patriots” when they see them, and actively recruit the kinds of players who fit the mold and the culture.  At your school, you know the exact types of kids you are trying to recruit, and are not shy about putting out there who would be successful on your campus.
  2. Leadership relies on data for decisions.
    The coaches watch hours and hours of film to know what to do for building a game plan and they do it in such a way that is mapped to the weaknesses of their opponents AND the strengths of their team.  There is no game plan or strategy put in place that hasn’t been truly vetted and built over multiple scenario tests. Your admission office shouldn’t take out an ad in a newspaper or on the radio “on a hunch” or because it “seems right”. Decisions have to come from data to be effective.
  3. Every opportunity requires a tailored approach.
    You never see two identical gameplans from the Patriots. They treat each opponent with a sophistication that is tailored specifically to who they are playing. In fact, there are times when you literally can’t distinguish the team from week to week, because they are using very different approaches in consecutive games. For your admission office, do you have a “one size fits all approach” or do you tailor your approach and strategy to each prospective family you face. Your success rates for yield will increase dramatically with the time spent tailoring the approach to each family. (That fact comes from a survey I did with SchoolAdmin and AISAP)
  4. Put your players in a position to succeed.
    You never see the Patriots asking a player who is not gifted with blocking to do nothing but block. They find the best uses for their players and give them every opportunity to be successful. In your office, you may have team members who are great with data, but not as good with the process, or you may be the ONLY member of the team, and are great with families and terrible with managing the numbers. Putting the right players on the right seat “on the bus” of your office is more important that just “hiring more help”. You need to have the right personnel operating from a position of strength, while pushing them to work on weakness whenever possible.
  5. Vision drives success.
    Without an organizational mantra, there is little chance for success. You’ll never hear a member of the Patriots talk about individual successes or looking ahead to another opponent. The entire team is focused on doing the best job you can, today. That leadership comes from the top, and is modeled brilliantly by the head coach (and the owner). If your head of school can distill the vision of quality through to your office’s work, there is no limit to the successes your school can attain through enrollment management.

This is probably a post for another day, but I found the thought poignant enough to capture here: Admission offices are the chief caretakers of the school’s brand, yet seldom have any control in how the brand is executed on a day in and day out basis on campus.  The Patriots all care for and advance the organization’s brand AND are able to control the messaging and set daily examples of how to live in the brand.

Thankfully, football season, as has the main admission season, has come to a close. As teams and admission offices gear up to start the next campaign, think about how your office can learn a few lessons from the Patriots and how they conduct their business every day.

It is cliche’ to connect sports and business, but in this case, our work is deeply tied to mission and mantra, and that’s something that the Patriots have cornered the market on.

What do you think? Are there any other lessons to be learned in connection to your office?

Science, with a soul…

So, I was really thinking about the other side of the admission funnel today: The students who AREN’T going to get the thick letter from your office. The families who WON’T be getting the good news through your online portal in a few days. I think about what that conversation around the kitchen table is like.

It was really on my mind, as today is my daughter’s birthday. I got to see photos of her on social media in her school, having a great time with her classmates, as they celebrated with her in their own, silly ways. It was positively heartwarming to see the look of joy on their faces, and to see her look so happy on her special day.

Then, it hit me. There are students all around the world that aren’t going to be in their first choice school.  How do we in the admission profession serve those families, who perhaps wanted more than anything to join our school?

We have been talking to a lot of schools about process management, and especially about visualizing their entire onboarding journey with a family, from first touch all the way through enrollment. Many schools, however, don’t actually have contingencies in place for those families that aren’t a good fit this year. There isn’t a “break up”, per se,  that lets the other party down nicely when a place is not going to be offered. Perhaps it’s time to think about that differently.

I remember how much it upset me as an admission director when a family that we were sure was going to enroll just…didn’t.

If you’re in admissions, you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about, right?

The questions in our office that arose of “why, and what could we have done better” seemed to hang in the air for weeks after decisions were due. Sometimes, the family will tell you, and usually they don’t. They simply just go on about their lives at their new school. For those families that DON’T get their first choice, it may be time to give them a good “break up”.

As you consider your admission process map, consider the output when the student doesn’t end up getting the good letter. We invest so much emotion in the care and understanding of our prospects, that we owe it to everyone in the  process to take care of and to be honest with our families.

Admission work is the intersection of science and soul.

 

Make sure you care for all parts of your prospective families journeys with you.

 

Are you on top of your game?

I have had the privilege over the past few years of working with some schools that were full. Not full in the way that I used to think of it. Nothing like that actually. In my old paradigm, full meant “on the number, and everyone’s happy”. That perspective was shattered on a school visit in the UK.

I met a school that had admission issues, and they were looking for a solution. Their challenge, however, is one that almost every school I have ever met would kill for. Literally.

This school had a 13 year waiting list.

Let that sink in for a moment.

13 years. They were projected to be completely full for 13 years, with full pay students. Done. Dusted. Wrapped up in a bow.

And yet, this school was concerned with competition, staying ahead of the market and doing things differently, so that they could continue their dominance. That was a refreshing and eye-opening conversation. We didn’t talk about the problems that are inherent in that kind of logjam of paperwork (yes, they still used paper), or the possibility of families falling through the cracks with a 13 year process.

We talked about Staying On Top Of The Game. It was fantastic.

As you think about your state of admissions, where are you? Are you on top of your game? Are you getting the most out of your marketing efforts and attracting the right families to your events? As this school proved, Same Old-Same Old just doesn’t work, especially in this hyper-competitive market.

There is another school in the UK that is bursting at the seams, and they have figured things out. I want you to watch this video, and then think about their reason for doing it:

So…this school took a look at their data. They were full and wanted to stay there. They saw that grandparents were helping to pay tuition of their students. They also wanted to connect with traditional past-times…hence the toys and games that resonate with an older demographic. Once this video aired, they reported one more fascinating statistic: the number one demographic at their open houses were now pregnant women.  Hornsby House kept demand up, without showing anything relating to curriculum, caring faculty, facilities, sport or anything else. It was all about the kids.

You have to congratulate Miles Latham and his team at Affixxius Academic, who asked the right questions and delivered a product that allowed Hornsby House to Stay On Top Of Their Game.

As you plan for your next admission cycle. Think about your market and who you are trying to reach. Think about your goals, and don’t be afraid to think big.

Let’s get YOU on top of YOUR game.

A whole new world…

Getting things started
A New Beginning

There is something magical about the ocean. No matter what you build, no matter what kind of hole you dig, the next day, the beach will be smooth. It’s one of the amazing things of our existence. Every day is a fresh start, and every day reminds you of how fortunate you are.

I have had the chance to meet schools from all over the world, and with nearly every conversation, the recurring theme centered around some sort of admission challenge. It didn’t matter if the school was struggling to fill seats or if they had a waiting list for 13 years (and yes, there are schools like that out there…crazy, right?), they all have some sort of issue that they are trying to solve.

During my time as a Director of Enrollment Management, I was fortunate to work with some heads of school who were visionary and not afraid of a big idea. It was out of these relationships that the seeds of this endeavor was born. John Watson and Rick O’Hara were absolutely vital in the formation of the ideas and tools that I am so thrilled to bring to the market today. I can’t thank them enough for their professionalism, courage, and encouragement during our time together.

The real question you are probably thinking, though, is WHY?

The answer is simple.

Nobody gets into admissions work because they LOVE excel or data.

Admissions people are, by nature, in the position because they are “people” people. They love to meet a new family and bring tremendous enthusiasm for their school to every conversation. However, staff with that vibrant spirit often get little to no training or assistance in implementing processes, which can create gaps in enrollment.

My journey begins with one mission: to help admission offices of all sizes be more efficient. Whether  assisting in process map creation or building strategic enrollment marketing plans, our work together will be collaborative and transformative.  I learn and grow from each conversation, and can’t wait to share my travels and experiences with you.

I have been absolutely overwhelmed and flattered with the early response to this concept.  Schools that are completely full are excited to dig in and get better, and schools that have spaces are eager to fill their seats with new, mission appropriate, full-pay students. It’s going to be a fantastic ride.

As I look at the ocean and the many footprints on the beach this afternoon, I can’t wait for tomorrow. New challenges, new beginnings, and a new conversation with you.

See you at the top!

Jesse