College Counseling and Enrollment Growth — An Interview with Dr. Brent Goldman
I have known Dr. Brent Goldman for about seven or eight years. Dr. Goldman is the founder and head of school at The Sagemont School in Weston, FL, just outside of the Fort Lauderdale/Miami area. Under his watch, Sagemont has grown from 23 students in 1996 to 826 today. He is an entrepreneurial and visionary school leader who is driven to succeed.
I had the privilege of working with him and his school team several years ago to assess their enrollment and marketing effort and to put a plan in place to grow their school. Since that time, I have kept my eye on Sagemont.
The results have been exponential. In a recent conversation with Dr. Goldman, he mentioned that his school’s focus on college counseling and the results of their outstanding academic experience have make a significant contribution to the growth at The Sagemont School (besides the obvious marketing and enrollment strategies). In fact, through his website, www.goratz.com, you can download a white paper he wrote on “How an Exemplary College Advising Program Can Increase Enrollment at Private K-12 Schools.”
I was intrigued by his experience and this linkage to college counseling at Sagemont that I wanted to find out more. The following is my recent interview with Dr. Goldman:
Describe the enrollment growth that you have experienced in the past several years at The Sagemont School:
“Over the past five years our enrollment has grown from 735 students to 820 students.”
As head of school, what research did you conduct and what strategic decisions did you make that led to your enrollment growth?
“In the summer of 2007, the board of my school challenged me to increase our upper school (grades 6-12) enrollment from what was then 410 students to 500. The first area that we wanted to address was our enrollment management systems. Through an outside consultant, we developed goals, follow up procedures, lead generation strategies, re-enrollment plans (focusing on the transition grades) and overhauled our open house program.
The second area that we addressed was our college counseling program. We discovered that where our students were being accepted into college and how much merit scholarship money our students were earning had a direct impact on enrollment. We developed a strategic plan to improve our college counseling program. Our plan focused on resume building (both for the school and for the students). The resume building for the school included offering more honors and Advanced Placement classes, enhanced extracurricular opportunities for students with a focus on honor societies and competitions. We felt the need for our students to compete locally and at the state level in all types of academic and artistic endeavors. Once our school improved, quite naturally our students had a much easier time building their own individual resumes for college.
As a result, over the past five years, the number of colleges that attend our school’s college fair has increased from 25 to 110. I have learned over the years that a top notch college counseling program in a K-12 school has a direct relationship to increasing enrollment. By the way, we ended the 2012-13 school year with 499 students in our upper school. The goal was attained.”
What marketing and enrollment strategies did you implement to grow Sagemont? What strategies worked the best?
“Our marketing strategy at Sagemont focuses on PR and social media. When we opened the school in 1996 all of our marketing was in newspaper advertisements. We do not do any newspaper advertisements anymore. We still do some print advertising mostly in high-end magazines that also provide us with advertorial space. Our school does a great job sharing our stories. We generally average 30-40 media hits per year. We post these articles on our website and Facebook page. We developed a Facebook page two years ago that does a tremendous job of telling our story. It is updated on a daily basis. We have just introduced twitter and are in the process of coming up with an implantation plan for that medium.”
One of the things that made a difference at Sagemont has been the improvement of your guidance counseling department. What has been the impact on your current and prospective students and parents?
“The impact on our current parent is that they now have a much better understanding of the college admissions process and what their role should be as part of the team (along with the student and the college adviser). The biggest impact for our current students is they realize that building their resume is a very important piece of their high school experience and will lead to more options from colleges. I believe prospective parents and students through our admissions process see that we know what we are talking about regarding college admissions. Having that comfort level prior to enrollment is crucial for the high school student and parent.”
How did this effort help to fuel the enrollment growth at Sagemont?
“A school’s college acceptance list is a conversation piece at cocktail parties and Starbucks. Parents love to talk about the colleges that are accepting students from their child’s school. We believe that improving our college counseling program had a direct effect on both re-enrollment and new student enrollment (through word of mouth).”
What advice would you give another school leader interested in growing their enrollment?
“I strongly believe that a top-notch college advisement program will lead to increased enrollment. The enrollment growth will not just be in the high school but the lower school as well. The college-prep culture needs to be a major component of the entire school, not just the high school.”
Thanks Brent for sharing your thoughts and successes at The Sagemont School. I really like how you tie the return on the parent’s investment, their ROI, with the strength of your college counseling program and academic strength. These results make a difference in attracting new families and returning current families at Sagemont.
In his entrepreneurial spirit, Brent has recently launched a new initiative, Go Ratz Education Consulting, with his business partner, Peter Ratzan, to help schools develop a great college advising program. If you are interested in discovering more about his program, you can email him directly at email@example.com.
What do you see as the connection between your college guidance counseling program and the enrollment at your school?
How do you communicate the return on the investment at your school as part of your marketing effort?
Should your enrollment plan include an enhanced college advisement program?