Walking the Transition Tightrope

Carson D. Roy


on July 12, 2016

Walking the Transition Tightrope

by Carson Roy, Director of Admission and Financial Aid, Potomac School (VA)

Summer is typically a slow and rejuvenating time for most independent school admission professionals, but for those transitioning to new schools, June and July can prove stressful and, at times, overwhelming. Juggling job responsibilities (and emails) at two different institutions is unquestionably hectic, while facing the “unknown” at a new school can be daunting. After five fulfilling years at the Pomfret School, I am transitioning to Potomac School in McLean, Virginia to work as the director of admission and financial aid. Pomfret will be fortunate enough to welcome Amy Graham as director of enrollment management starting this summer. Below are a few tips to help you ensure that your successor gets off to a solid start:

Be Involved Early - A great starting point to ensure a smooth transition is early involvement in the search process for your replacement. While mitigating circumstances might preclude you from being part of the hiring process, I personally have found it extremely helpful to be able to meet and begin an ongoing dialogue with the incoming candidates for my position. I appreciated the fact that I was not on the official search committee, which I believe allowed me to have more candid conversations with the candidates. These conversations enabled me to realistically set the stage in terms of job expectations and also to address specific admission questions in depth, often providing details unavailable from members of the search committee.

Connect With The Office - Try to get your successor “hooked in” with your office as soon as possible. The first or second time they have conversations with the members of their new office should not be the first day on the job! Pomfret was fortunate to have Amy in attendance at the Independent Education Consultants Association Conference in Boston this May. This allowed for introductions to area consultants, and gave her the opportunity to spend some time with members of our office. She was also involved (via Skype!) in our spring retreat this June. This participation enabled her to weigh in on some decisions being made for next year and to begin gaining a sense of what roles and responsibilities each member of the office had.

Resolve Loose Ends - Leave your replacement with a (very) clear sense of numbers and issues that might be pending. Do you still have a few outstanding contracts from current families? Can you foresee a tough decision with an applicant on the waiting list or a difficult conversation with a family appealing a financial aid decision? To the best of your ability, be proactive in making sure loose ends are resolved before moving on. You don’t want any surprise landmines waiting for the person taking over for you, especially during the first few days on the job!

Be Available - Being available to answer questions and offer guidance is the most important thing you can do in terms of helping your replacement transition smoothly into your role. This past spring, Amy and I had weekly phone calls not only to provide her an update on the current enrollment picture, but also to discuss the transition plan for the upcoming months. Many times, our conversations started with a more formal “nuts and bolts” agenda, but often morphed into discussing bigger picture items such as local demographics and priorities moving forward. Amy and I also had two “crossover days” in the office where we were both physically in-house and able to talk about everything from yield statistics to board reports to what kind of coffee everyone in the office prefers. I found this time together extremely helpful, as I was able to fill her in on a multitude of “little” things that we had not previously touched on in our weekly conversations. Numerous topics came up spontaneously and at random times throughout the two days!

If you are transitioning this summer to a new school or have a new role within your current community, I wish you the best of luck. I hope you find the above tips helpful!