Word-of-mouth, authenticity and diversity in admissions using PeerPal

Admissions software

10 pieces of advice from Woodward Academy

About Woodward Academy

Woodward Academy (Woodward) is an independent, co-educational college-preparatory school for pre-kindergarten to 12th grade on two campuses within the Atlanta metropolitan area. 

Woodward is a large school with a small school atmosphere, offering a low student-to-teacher ratio. Woodward is also renowned for its diversity, intentionally bringing together students from diverse backgrounds, perspectives, religions, ethnicities and experiences to create a rich learning community with exceptional academic opportunities.

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Word-of-mouth, authenticity and diversity in admissions using PeerPal

Admissions powered by PeerPal


The admissions team at Woodward uses the PeerPal from Gravyty ambassador platform to give prospective families access to parent ambassadors who can authentically answer their questions to help them decide if Woodward is the right school for their child.


The admissions team follows up with any family that has chatted to a parent ambassador and uses the ambassadors’ feedback to guide the follow-up correspondence.


The PeerPal widget appears front and center on the Woodward website so prospective families can immediately connect with and talk to a parent. However, Woodward now has placed the widget on all the pages within the admissions section of the website, which reduces the frequency of parent ambassadors receiving too many admission-specific queries, such as entry requirements, available spaces, tuition and fees, etc.

Getting the most out of PeerPal from Gravyty in your admission process

1. Amplifying word-of-mouth marketing

It is critical in the admissions world today to provide prospective families with authentic, unedited access to parents and students in the school. According to EAB, 75% of independent school applications now come from word-of-mouth referrals. This is especially true when the majority of prospective families are millennials, as is the case with Woodward. Research shows that 90% of millennials make decisions based on authenticity. As a platform that allows families who are considering Woodward to engage in authentic word-of-mouth conversations with current families in the school, PeerPal enables Woodward to provide an authentic admissions experience.

Life before PeerPal

In the past, the admissions team at Woodward would examine the entire directory to find the most suitable person to speak to a particular family. Now, they choose a wide range of ambassadors upfront, ensuring a diverse representation of interests, geographies, ethnicity, socioeconomic backgrounds and more. Prospective families can now easily choose a parent with similar interests or experiences, giving them more autonomy and authenticity in their school search process.

2. Achieving transparency and authenticity

Transparency and authenticity are essential in today’s admissions process. The ambassadors who represent your school must be honest and genuine when interacting with prospective families. To train ambassadors for the job, you need to straddle a fine line between offering too much training (which stints a natural flow of conversation), and too little training (which could leave ambassadors at a loss as to what to say).

Woodward’s approach is to send a summary to each ambassador, listing the school’s key value propositions that they should convey. After that, the ambassadors have free reign to use their own personal examples and communication style to convey the message. We also encourage the ambassadors, if they don’t know the answer to a question, to be transparent about that and offer follow-up. This authentic exchange creates an open dialogue.

3. Connecting to multiple ambassadors

Most schools think of the parent ambassador relationship as 1:1 but in many cases, parents want to explore several different aspects of the school; talking to one ambassador alone may not suffice.

An advantage of PeerPal is that prospective families can send out several messages to different parent ambassadors easily and quickly. The online platform format then makes it easier for parents to schedule conversations at a convenient time.

4. Honesty is the best policy

Part of ensuring the most authentic process is to empower ambassadors to speak truthfully—even if they have some less favorable things to share. It is unlikely that everything about a school will be perfect, so a bit of negative feedback is to be expected.

Woodward’s advice when needing to share something difficult or unpleasant is to use the “love sandwich” approach: Talk about something positive first, then discuss the less than favorable point, then end the conversation with another positive point. 

5. A mix of in-person and online connections

A good approach with admission is to offer a mix of in-person and online experiences to suit the timetables and travel restrictions of your entire audience. After COVID, people are hungry for in-person experiences (which Woodward happily provides wherever possible) but in-person is not always feasible.

The answer is to move to a hybrid approach and offer prospective families a choice on how they want to connect.

Download the case study now to see the other five best practices on leveraging word-of-mouth, authenticity and diversity in admissions using PeerPal.

Get the full case study

Word-of-mouth, authenticity and diversity in admissions using PeerPal

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