Enrolling Parents in an Online World

For most schools, the application and enrollment process is coming to an end for this year. It won’t be long until you will begin work on retaining the students you just recruited as well as recruiting another new group of families for the 2012-13 year.

As you consider best practices to implement in the next school year, I believe that it is important for school leaders to move towards an online application and enrollment process.

Think about re-enrollment for a minute. Many schools still use the traditional approach requiring parents to come to campus during a specific time slot to move from station to station completing an outdated re-enrollment process. When I was head of school 10 years ago, this is how we were asking our parents to re-enroll.

Think about applications for new families. Many schools still use a hard-copy application in which a parent is required to complete in their own handwriting and then either mail to the school or drop off at the admissions office. Can you think of another application for another industry that you have to complete by hand today?

In fact, the process hasn’t changed for these schools in years, or maybe even decades.

Let me give you several reasons why you should consider moving to an online process, if you haven’t done so already:

  1. The reality is that our parents expect our school to be on the cutting edge of technology. Our parents already use laptops, smartphones and iPads to shop, pay bills, bank, and a myriad of other tasks online. Our parents expect our application and enrollment process to be online.
  2. The application and enrollment process should be easy to complete in a 24/7 world.
  3. An online process provides immediate awareness of where a prospective or current family is at in the process. This helps you provide targeted and ongoing follow-up. When using the traditional paper application or re-enrollment form, it is impossible to know where they are at in the process.
  4. Your competition may already have an online application and enrollment process. If they don’t, they are probably thinking about it and moving in this direction.
  5. Your school’s website is your main marketing tool and it is critical for your prospective parents to be able to request information and apply online easily from your site.
  6. You will save time and resources on data entry since the parent will complete their application or re-enrollment online.

While I am not an expert on school administrative database systems, I do know that several offer this feature as a part of their product offering. Based on my work with several schools currently, I do know that RenWeb and Blackbaud offer this option (and I am sure that other systems provide this). In addition, you can also investigate a stand-alone option like Infosnap that provides these online solutions.

In fact, if I was selecting an administrative database system for my school, this would be one of the “must have” criteria to guide my decision making process.

Remember, it is important that we meet our prospective and current parents where they are at if we want to reach them effectively.

The parents we are trying to enroll live in an online world.

Therefore, it really is a no-brainer to move forward with an on-line application and enrollment process.