10 Tips to help you decide
The admissions process in the education space is a bit like matchmaking. Each party—be it prospective family or the school—checks the other out to determine fit and suitability. Schools, colleges and universities use the admissions period to try and evaluate whether a prospective student (and their family) are likely to thrive both academically and socially in the school and continue to contribute to the wider school community for the long term. At the same time, students and their families are vetting the school in a bid to determine if it offers a good fit for their personality, skills, background and academic expectations.
In recent years, the admissions process has changed from being predominantly office-led to more peer-led, reflecting a wider shift towards authenticity. Parents today value first-person interactions with existing parents and students at the school, finding these more informative than turning to school employees and staff with their questions. Word-of-mouth interactions with peer-ambassadors are seen as more reliable and also afford opportunities to ask questions that families can be intimidated to ask in the school office—for example, how kids of certain cultural backgrounds fare in the school or questions about the socioeconomic profile of the student body.
Giving prospective families peer-to-peer access to parent and student ambassadors can be time-consuming and logistically difficult, however. It can often take several tries to match families with the right ambassador and then coordinate a meeting or call at a suitable time—this is especially true in schools with international student bodies where parents are spread out all over the world.
A digital admissions and enrollment platform can ease the burden on admissions staff by making these interactions family-led. Parents can browse the platform themselves, locate ambassadors they wish to speak to and schedule their own meeting all from one central location and without the need for staff intercessions. This type of platform can help busy admissions teams manage a large caseload of prospective families without sacrificing on the quality of the interactions. Upon acceptance, the platform can also be used to help admitted families feel special and welcome via their personal ambassadors. The question is, which one should you choose?
10 Tips for choosing the best admission + enrollment platform for your school
There are currently a number of digital admissions and enrollment platforms on the market, each offering different features and benefits. When researching a suitable platform for your organization consider the following:
1. Is the platform customizable?
Many schools add a widget to their main website which draws prospective families to a separate site dedicated specifically to admissions and enrollment. You want to be sure that the site has the same look and feel as your main website and brand so as not to confuse or disorientate your audience.
Therefore, you need a customizable platform that allows you to tweak the text, the information fields and the general look and design to match your brand and give your constituents a seamless experience that stamps your brand and values into their memory.
2. In what ways will the platform support your ambassador program and the power of word-of-mouth marketing?
One of the key deterrents to running an authentic and personalized ambassador program is the time involved in sourcing suitable ambassadors, getting them to write their personal profiles and provide photographs and up-to-date contact details.
A good admissions platform will allow you to send out a link to each ambassador (via email) from which they can access their personal area and fill out their own profiles, provide pictures, contact details and any other information they wish to include. If they need to update their information at a later date, they can simply enter their area themselves and do the work.
You can also use the platform to share instructions and guides with the ambassadors (including video guides) so they can easily learn how to use the platform’s features as well as learn about the ambassador role and what is expected of them.
3. Does it allow prospective families to find ambassadors autonomously?
Matching prospective families to the right ambassador is a delicate and time consuming process—especially if you don’t have digital tools to help you along. You need to speak to the families to learn their interests and specific concerns and then find an ambassador in a position to answer their questions from personal experience.
Finally, you need to contact each party to determine availability and sometimes even assist in scheduling the calls. Most modern admissions offices simply don’t have the time to manage this mammoth task effectively. You need an admissions platform that allows prospective families to easily browse colorful and appealing ambassador profiles themselves, select the one or two they are interested in speaking to and then schedule the calls themselves.
4. Does it support multiple communication modalities?
Some people like to read emails, some prefer to watch a video and others simply want to speak to a real person on a call. An admissions and enrollment platform that supports multiple communication modalities will enable your school to cater to all your constituents’ communication needs making each one feel valued and important.
5. Can you use the platform to make admitted students feel welcome?
Contrary to popular belief, the admissions process doesn’t end when a student is accepted to the school. Between acceptance and actually starting their school career there is a long space of time in which parents (or students) may want to ask further questions, receive information and hear from the school.
You need an admissions and enrollment platform that can be used by ambassadors to maintain contact with admitted families even once their application has been processed and accepted.
Use this channel to invite families to events and meetups, connect them to other admitted families, provide information and respond to questions and generally make them feel special and welcome. Each admitted family can be assigned a designated ambassador tasked with carrying out these functions through the platform.
6. Can the platform help you meet your diversity, equity and inclusion commitments?
Families considering a certain school will understandably want to know if the environment is one in which their child will feel comfortable and accepted. Diversity, equity and inclusion are important issues that are a top priority for many families.
A digital admissions platform through which prospective parents can browse a selection of both student and parent ambassadors is a great way to showcase the diversity of your school’s community and its inclusiveness.
Be thoughtful in your selection of ambassadors to ensure your representatives reflect a wide range of cultural, linguistic, religious, socio-economic and any other feature or background you wish to present.
7. Will it help you manage and organize your forms and paperwork?
School admissions is a notoriously paper-heavy task. Printing off the right forms, locating brochures and mailing them to the right people used to take hours of staff time.This was before you would even have received the completed forms back in the mail or email, categorized them and then processed them.
A fully digital admission platform will eliminate the need for paper altogether. Search features will make it easy for staff to locate the forms they need and digital storage means you never have to worry about misplacing someone’s paperwork again.
8. Does the price justify the outcome?
Budget is a major consideration for most educational institutions and especially in a challenging economic climate. When shopping around for a product it is tempting to go for a bargain, but the cheapest platform is not necessarily the right one.
The best way to find the right product for you is to make a list of the key features you require in an admissions and enrollment platform, narrow down prospective products to those that best cater to your principal needs, and then make your final choice. The questions in this article can help you work out your priorities.
9. Does it provide analytics to measure performance?
Which ambassador seems to be the most popular? How many people are aborting applications mid-form? How many peer-led ambassador calls are being scheduled each month?
These are some of the questions you will want to ask in order to evaluate how well your services are working and where you can improve. An admission platform that collects data in the background and allows you to run reports will enable you to set and track goals so you know exactly what’s working and what needs to be improved.
10. Does the platform provider offer post-purchase support?
Onboarding a new digital platform is a commitment. Everyone in your organization will have to learn how to use it and early hiccups are par for the course. You may find that you want a new link added to an online form or to create a new online group for a particular segment of parents. You don’t want to be left high-and-dry with nothing but a manual to help you figure out what to do in these situations.
A great admissions and enrollment platform will come with a great support team. Check that your provider will be available to go the distance with you and assist you and your team as you encounter issues or as your needs evolve.
Power your admissions + enrollment experience
It’s an exciting time to be in admissions and enrollment. Much of the grunt work that made the job so difficult in the past can be eliminated when you use the right tools leaving staff free to focus on building great relationships with prospective families.
In today’s authenticity-focused environment you need to provide prospective families with the personalized, warm and thoughtful interactions they seek and a digital admissions and enrollment tool will help you do this better than ever before.