How Oakwood School elevated their admissions experience

Parent ambassador program for admissions

About Oakwood

Oakwood is a K-12 independent school located on two campuses in the Los Angeles, California area. The school was founded in 1951 by parents who wanted to provide their children with an educational experience rich in the arts, sciences and humanities and a challenge to their creative, intellectual and physical capacities. Oakwood is a relationship-based school with a deep sense of community and strong student-teacher relationships.

Ambassador prep—the Oakwood way

Parent ambassadors play an integral role in the school’s admissions process, giving readily of their time and energy to help new families feel welcome as they join the school community. Oakwood prepares its ambassadors by running a training course at the start of each year:

Training has been very, very successful in helping our parents understand their role in the admission process and when to pass families back to the office for more detailed information.

Olivia Krane, Assistant Director of Admission Coordinator, K-6

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How Oakwood used PeerPal to elevate their admissions experience

Admissions cycle—Explanation of the ambassador’s role at each milestone during the admissions cycle.

Encourage authentic sharing—Ambassadors are urged to speak only from personal experience using the  “I” perspective.

What not to talk about—Ambassadors are encouraged to avoid subjects that don’t contribute to an authentic admissions process such as specific curricular offerings or the chances of a family being admitted to the school. Questions of this nature are to be referred to the admissions office.

Emotional awareness—Ambassadors are asked to be sensitive to the emotions of applicants and avoid giving false hope or making promises.

Get support—Ambassadors are encouraged to reach out to the admissions office for guidance whenever needed.

Managing admissions at Oakwood

Before PeerPal

In the past, Oakwood’s small admissions team tried to manage a large set of volunteers using Google Sheets. Names, contact details, and notes about prospective families were all listed on the sheet.

A Google form was set up for ambassadors to record feedback after contact with a prospective family and a Google drive served as a “one stop shop” for families to access their sheets and Google forums.

Matching parent to the right ambassadors was a time-intensive, inefficient and manual process where tracking results and follow-up was particularly challenging.

How PeerPal enhances the admissions process

Oakwood used PeerPal from Gravyty to create an ambassador page featuring over 40 ambassador profiles, aiding prospective families in a variety of ways:

Empowering the families

PeerPal extended outreach beyond the admissions office allowing prospective families to initiate contact with ambassadors on their own terms. To facilitate this, Oakwood added the option to “contact an ambassador” onto the checklist in the enrollment management system.

Following up after events

After each admissions-related event, Oakwood sent a follow-up email with a link to the ambassador platform, inviting families to browse the ambassador profiles or directly contact the people they met at the event.

Reach out in email signatures

All admissions staff added a link to the ambassador platform to their email signatures with the call to action “Connect with a parent!”

Recording feedback

PeerPal made it easy for ambassadors to record feedback about any conversation held in one central location, helping admissions staff deepen their knowledge and understanding of the prospective families.

Seeing contacts at a glance

Staff could readily spot which families’ contact requests had been answered and which hadn’t. They could then prompt ambassadors to reply to unanswered contacts. When staff noticed a family that seemed interested but hadn’t been in touch with an ambassador, they simply used PeerPal to request an ambassador to reach out.

Targeted matching

Because all data is stored centrally, PeerPal made it easier for the admissions team to facilitate matches between families and ambassadors that share common interests or background. If staff thought a certain ambassador was a good fit for a certain family, they created a call within PeerPal asking that ambassador to reach out.

Managing volunteers

Admissions staff could track which volunteers were the most engaged and which were less busy. They could then take action to spread out the connections more evenly between volunteers.

Updating ambassador page

Thoughtful re-arrangement of the Oakwood Ambassador page helped the school promote certain ambassadors as needed. For example, after an event, those volunteers who were in attendance were bumped to the top of the page so that they could be easily located by attendees wanting further contact.

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How Oakwood used PeerPal to elevate their admissions experience

Creating transparent and authentic experiences

Authenticity is an essential ingredient in the modern day admissions process. Rather than just speaking to staff in the admissions office, prospective families want to have genuine conversations with parents who have first-hand experience with the school. All of this could not take place without PeerPal.

In order to create as authentic an experience as possible, Oakwood encouraged its ambassadors to adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Participate as much as possible in online events to maximize the number of families they reach
  • Always speak from the “I” perspective sharing stories about themselves or their children only 
  • If a question is raised that cannot be answered from personal experience, pass it on to the admissions office for follow-up
  • Add as much detail as possible to the Ambassador profiles to make it easier for families to find ambassadors that closely match their own background, ethnicity and interests
  • To enhance diversity and inclusion, Oakwood provided opportunities for under-represented groups (LGBTQ+, Black, Hispanic, etc.) to gather and meet at virtual and in-person events with families who shared similar backgrounds or family structure. After these events, they were encouraged to use PeerPal to contact the ambassadors they met online or in person. 

Future plans

Oakwood plans to onboard more parent ambassadors to the platform in the coming year. As students graduate and families leave the school, it is essential to replace them so continuous recruitment efforts are needed.

The school plans to add a section to the ambassador profiles where they can share personal stories about their experiences in the school. This will make their profiles more approachable and relatable and will also help families better find the matches that suit them.

The school wants to explore the video features within PeerPal and use this modality to create more personable and authentic content.

Learn how PeerPal can help you amplify your #1 recruitment channel—word of mouth—and power your ambassador program. Get a consultation.