Three School Leaders Review the AISAP Summer Institute

AISAP 2015, Group Photo

The Association of Independent School Admission Professionals (AISAP) hosted their annual summer institute in Baltimore a few weeks ago. I highly recommend that every school admissions and marketing professional consider attending this conference as part of your professional development.

While schedule conflicts prevented me from attending this year, several of my Enrollment Catalyst clients attended (pictured above and below). I asked three of them to share their experiences with you:

What motivated you to attend the AISAP Summer Institute this year?

Nicole: A well-respected colleague and friend recommended that I attend AISAP prior to me starting at The Children’s School. She is a member of the Board and faculty and shared that she felt that AISAP had the best training for an admissions professional, especially one new to directorship, like me. The institute did not disappoint and I committed (to myself) to attend AISAP for the next three years. This was year two.

Judy: I was eager to attend the AISAP meeting because I did not attend last year. I felt it would be important for me to connect with colleagues as the role of the Admissions Office has changed so much. I was interested in learning more about the concept of Enrollment Management and how to make the transition into this more strategic kind of thinking which involves not only admission/the admission funnel, but also, staying connected with various constituencies throughout the school year to ensure retention.

Lisa: In part, you did. You said it was a great conference and we should consider attending if we could. Of course, we do our very best to implement your every suggestions, so…   Seriously, we heard from you as well as other colleagues that it was a great conference and we were grateful that our school invested in sending us.

What did you like best about the AISAP Summer Institute?

Nicole: The workshops are incredibly applicable. Each year, I have left with new tools for my toolkit and ideas that I can implement upon my return. Also, I especially like the resources that exist within the attendees themselves. Each person genuinely wants you to contact them should you have a need or question. This is invaluable!

Judy: I loved the camaraderie—the “language” that admissions professionals speak with one another, the questions/issues/challenges that are common to us throughout the country. I love interacting with colleagues whom I have come to admire and respect, as well as colleagues who are new to admissions… compare notes, etc. Janice Crampton, our AISAP President, is amazing. Not only is she knowledgeable, but she is also a wonderful person—energetic, great sense of humor, very personable, and a great advocate for each of us. She is a great leader and a great role model. Of course, the sessions were very informative, and the guest speakers were inspirational, but it is the camaraderie that I loved the most!

Lisa: First, Janice’s enthusiasm for admissions and admissions professionals was infectious and bolstering. We aren’t used to being made to feel so special. The camaraderie of the group was also great. Everyone was so friendly and approachable. There was never a time on the bus between the hotel and the school or at a social event when you felt awkward or alone. I was lucky to be there with my colleague, Mary Ellen, but if you attend by yourself, you would be perfectly at home. Finally, the quality and the openness of the presenters made the conference worthwhile. From the Cornerstone speakers like Chris Baker, John Chubb and Don Yaeger, to the session leaders, who are actual practitioners, each and every one shared important information, tools and strategies that we could take home and put into practice. Two drawbacks were: 1) there were so many great sessions offered at the same time it was excruciating to choose, and 2) in the new Marketing & Communications track there were a few too many vendors presenting, so in some cases it was a little more about them than it was about us.

Describe the one session or workshop that made the greatest impact on you.

Nicole: The session that had the greatest impact on me professionally and personally was the one facilitated by Willard Taylor about being a person of color in the admissions profession. As I look around the room at AISAP it is not hard to miss that there is a lack of diversity. This workshop focused on mentoring younger admission professionals so that they see the profession as a career path rather than a stepping-stone as well as providing a space at the conference and on the AISAP’s portal to connect with others.

Judy: My favorite session was led by Mr. Craig Tredenick, the Director of Enrollment Management at All Saints Episcopal School in Ft. Worth, TX. He beautifully described the role of the Enrollment Management Team and the specific events/plans that must be made in order to ensure the best enrollment and retention numbers possible. He went through the calendar of the school year to highlight what should be done and when. So much great information that I can use right now! He has created wonderful materials, and has agreed to send them to me…..I can’t wait to receive them.

Lisa: As I said in the post I wrote on the EC Facebook group, I have Don Yaeger’s 16 Lessons from Great Teams taped to my computer monitor, so you know that one stuck with me. I also really loved Will Taylor’s sessions on leadership. I kind of stumbled into the first one as the session I wanted to attend was cancelled and I was already running late so I literally just popped into the one next door and it was Will’s presentation on how to be an effective team leader. Leadership is something I am very interested in—both studying and building personally—so while this wasn’t a session where I discovered some great new marketing strategy or approach, I did come away with a deeper appreciation of the power of good leadership and some good ideas about what that looks like in a school setting.

What were some of your most important takeaways from the workshops you attended?

Nicole: After attending Brendan Schneider’s workshop on lead nurturing, I came away with a much clearer understanding of how this can truly support admissions efforts by maintaining a steady relationship with prospective families. His presentation was clear and really helped me to see how this approach can make a huge impact at the top of the funnel.

Judy: Immediately after the Institute, I made a list of specific “take-aways” that I can apply right away to my Enrollment Management Plan—many of them are specific ways to improve what we are already doing during the course of the school year and summer….but the main takeaways had to do with the motivational speakers, like Don Yaeger as he described “feel it” moments and the 16 Characteristics of Greatness…..He spoke about specific teams—sports teams, and corporate teams, and how those leaders motivated their teams to focus on the greater purpose—“understanding the why”—to believe in the cause, and to always include the “awe” factor.   We need to continue to have our students, alums, faculty, and parents share their Highlands’ stories….to share with others why their experience at our school changed their lives…how we live our mission……..Understanding great leadership and cohesive team work, which includes the shared vision and sense of purpose, we can only inspire others and move forward to share our story with the community at large. I also enjoyed hearing from Chuck Will, retired from Proctor Academy, NH talk about using photos to share stories…as he created one of the first blogs on his school’s website…..and I enjoyed hearing from the Head of Bryn Mawr School, Maureen Walsh.

Lisa: This conference is a marathon, not a sprint, so pace yourself, and wear comfortable shoes! Beyond that, my top 5 takeaways are:

  1. Brand is the combination of experience and expectations—and our jobs are to make the distance between those two things as small as possible.
  2. Most schools are still doing some kind of traditional advertising (print, radio, billboards, etc) because they’re too afraid not to. We all know it’s a scam, but we justify it as a “retention” expense because we hear about it from a few board members, faculty and current parents if we don’t. Can’t we just stop the insanity?
  3. If you’ve hired great people who are great at what they do, sometimes, as a leader, the best thing you can do for them is get out of their way.
  4. Know the difference between your buyers and believers. Buyers will comparison shop and it’s all about comparative value – you’ll have to sell them over and over again on your school. Believers you only have to “sell” once—they become your evangelists & ambassadors. You will always have both and you need to understand the difference and be prepared to recognize and appeal to both.
  5. Know your data—your numbers, market demographics, regional & national trends. You just have to invest the time. That’s one of my #1 goals from the conference is to get a better handle on external data.

Would you recommend the AISAP Summer Institute to other admissions and marketing professionals?

Nicole: Absolutely! In fact, it is my opinion that AISAP is a far better conference than other admissions conferences. Not only is it timely—happening during the summer when you have time to reflect on your practice—but it is also solely directed towards improving our profession.

Judy: I would highly recommend the Summer Institute to others…..especially now that they have established an accreditation process so that admission professionals can be certified as professionals. There is so much to be gained from “being there”, sharing with folks from all over the world, that you just can’t get from simply blogs or emails…..Attendance should be mandatory! I could not have managed in my career in admissions without attending this Institute through the years!

Lisa: Absolutely. If your school can afford it and afford losing you for three days in July, do it and don’t look back!!!

Thanks Nicole, Judy and Lisa for sharing your experiences at the AISAP Summer Institute with us!

Were you at the AISAP Summer Institute and have a takeaway that you want to share?

AISAP 2015, Group2