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Building Personal Connections: The “North Star” for Admission

Building Personal Connections: The “North Star” for Admission

The duties and demands of today’s admission officers are constantly growing. Admission and enrollment management professionals are expected to wear multiple hats and to master new skills in order to meet the ever-changing needs of their schools. 

Despite the pressure that comes with needing to drive revenue through enrollment and retention, it is imperative that admission offices remain equally committed to serving the families with which they work. Those teams who see their core purpose, or their “North Star,” as creating value for prospective families in the search process will ultimately enroll and retain more mission-aligned students than those who are solely focused on filling empty seats.

Avoid the Avoidable

While “fit” is determined in equal parts by the student and the school, the negative effects of an institution taking too broad of an approach to admission can be felt by everyone in a school community. Strained classroom experiences, an erosion of faculty and staff morale, and unsettling rates of attrition are all avoidable consequences of not prioritizing families who align with a school’s specific academic and social mission. Luckily admission offices can steer clear of most of these situations by being more intentional about how they focus their time and energy.

One of the easiest and most impactful ways that an admission office can do this is by creating opportunities for prospective families to connect with and learn from the experiences of current families. While it is certainly important to field individual questions and have marketing materials that accurately reflect the nuances of a school’s program, research suggests that prospective families find even more value in talking with people who have direct experience with a school. These interactions provide greater transparency and authenticity to the school search process and give prospective families a chance to envision what their experience would be like if they were to enroll.

A Shift Toward Community-Centered Communications

Social media has become a mainstay in schools’ marketing plans and savvy school marketers have started to invest resources into inbound marketing campaigns. Many admission offices are following suit and shifting from a top-down, calendar-driven communications model toward a more decentralized, community-centered approach with the most effective teams finding ways to leverage the power of their community at every stage of the admission process.

Let’s take a look at two messages to illustrate this shift in approach. Both were sent as a follow-up after a family had taken a tour. Can you spot the key differences?

Email #1

On the surface, this email doesn’t look that bad (besides the fact that it was sent at 1am!). Short and to the point, it aims to be a friendly reminder to the family and offers a direct call to action.

Email #2

In this example, the admission officer has prompted a current parent to reach out. It offers up an introduction to someone from the community and gives a more constructive call to action.

While both messages acknowledge action taken by the prospective family, the second email is a more effective strategy for identifying and addressing any reservations that a family may have. Families rarely forget to apply—especially if they’ve taken the time and effort to tour or interview. Chances are good that if a family doesn’t apply, there is a reason that is preventing them from taking action.

For example, imagine Jerome’s family lives 45 minutes from campus and while they loved the school during the visit, they have concerns about making the commute everyday. Now they have a personal email message from a current parent that lives in their area and has made the same commute for the past few years. While there are no guarantees that a conversation with this parent will result in an application, it is more likely to do so than the stock application reminder email from the admission director.

Doing More with Less

One of the perceived obstacles to adopting a more community-centered communications model is the time commitment that’s needed to seed, foster, and manage this new approach on top of everything else that’s expected of the modern-day admission office. Fortunately that’s where PeerPal comes in.

At its core, PeerPal adds value to the admission process by creating meaningful connections for schools and the families who are considering them. The PeerPal platform provides schools with the tools to harness the power of word of mouth and involve their community in the admission process, keeping their eye on that “North Star” of creating value for prospective students and families.


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