Five Key Roles for Private School Admissions

When I graduated from college, I was offered a position as an admissions counselor for my alma mater. I never planned for or dreamt of a career in admissions. At the time, this position was a job that would help provide the financial support I needed for graduate school.

However, I soon fell in love with my work in admissions. I quickly moved up the career ladder in leadership positions as the director of admissions and then as the executive director of enrollment management.

Admissions became my career and my focus in my work with schools as a launching pad for Enrollment Catalyst. During the past decade, since I launched my company, I have had the opportunity to coach hundreds and hundreds of school leaders in their enrollment and marketing strategies.

As I reflect on my  experiences, as well as the coaching relationships I have had with school leaders, I would like to share some advice and perspective with you on five key roles for admissions.

1—Admissions is Sales-Centric

While you may have negative experiences with salespeople trying to sell us something, the reality is that the role of admissions in a school is focused on sales. Every day, the admissions staff has the opportunity to sell prospective parents on their school. Sales is not a dirty word from my experience. Rather, it is the use of influence, persuasion, storytelling and communication to present your school to your target audience. It doesn’t mean that you are selling just to sell; it does mean that behind every enrollment number on a report is a student and a family.

2—Admissions is Relationally-Rooted

In order to be effective in selling your school, it is critical for the admissions staff to be rooted in developing relationships. We are relational beings and we crave conversations and connections. Through relationships with prospective parents, the admissions staff can get to know them and guide them in their buyer’s journey. Your parents are on the school shopping journey and it is your role to connect with them relationally to provide the guidance and solution they need for their children.

3—Admissions is Mission-Focused

I’ve always said that “More students, equals more mission.” Your role in admissions is to attract, recruit and enroll families that are mission-focused and mission-appropriate. Your families must fit your school’s culture and requirements. There is no greater role within a school than for admissions to protect the mission by focusing on enrolling the families that best reflect this.

4—Admissions is Goal-Oriented

Goals should drive anyone in an admissions position. These goals can and should include numerical targets for student enrollment as well as each level of the admissions funnel. In addition, goals can include the characteristics of families you are recruiting to your school. The admissions staff must be driven to reach these goals by taking the initiative required to succeed. With goals in place, you will be able to know if you are hitting the mark from year to year.

5—Admissions is Activity-Driven

Years ago, my boss at the university would always say to me, “Good things happen when the admissions staff is on the phone.” This still rings true today. Good things happen when the admissions staff is making proactive and intentional contacts with prospective families. These activities—including phone calls, emails, text messages, handwritten notes and more—lead to the results that you are after. Admissions activities should produce results.

While there is certainly more that can be added to this list, I believe these five roles stand out. It is important for you to embrace your role in admissions in these five ways at your school.