Listening to Parents, Changing Perspectives

Listening to Parents, Changing Perspectives

Marketing guru Scott Stratten, this year's Annual Conference keynote speaker, asserts that today’s parents are loyal to one thing only—their children. His insights will certainly be useful as our independent school community works to address the new needs and interests of our changing customers. For some time, EMA has watched national lower school trends that indicate millennial parents seek a different set of benefits when considering independent schools for their children. What are those new needs expressed by families as they seek a great education for their offspring? EMA is ready to work with our members to take stock and reconsider traditional messages that may no longer resonate with today’s and tomorrow’s parents and students.

Because EMA is responsible for delivering nearly 90,000 SSATs and 45,000+ SAO applications annually to families, students, and our member schools, we have a unique vantage point in working with all parties to better understand changing dynamics. EMA first undertook a widescale survey of parents in 2014 and presented the results to our membership in The Ride to Independent Schools. We carried out this same survey with a new group of parents last summer (seeking admission for fall 2017) and more than 2,700 parents responded. Our 2017 parent group had a lot to say! It is clear that parents want to be heard during the admission process and they have strong opinions about what’s working and what’s not.

While we issued the aggregate data report and analysis in last fall’s 2017 The Ride to Independent Schools, we thought it was equally important to provide you with parent quotes to illuminate the numbers with real life, real campus experiences. Presentations at our spring Admission Leadership Council (ALC) seminars, held across the country, and the cover story in spring/summer's The Yield  seek to explore the sometimes funny, sometimes concerning parent feedback that was received.

This same research also uncovered family anxiety about the admission process, which feels byzantine to many. When our industry doesn’t work together to deliver a process that is consistent, manageable, and equitable to all, everyone loses. In the year ahead, EMA will continue to push forward on the work of educating our schools about the changing dynamics that affect enrollment success. We are thrilled to announce two new statewide partnerships with the Association of Independent Maryland Schools (AIMS) and The Hawaii Association of Independent Schools (HAIS), through which all independent schools in these states will use the same application tool (EMA’s Standard Application Online) to make applying less time consuming; these same associations will also be helping EMA to better understand how we can support families who are not admitted in round one, so they can be redirected to other schools with openings. We believe these new partnerships will be something for the rest of our industry to watch, as one clear feedback point from parents is that our process is overwhelming—and so demanding that they drop schools from their lists in order to avoid the application process itself.

I wish you a restful summer with time for both reflection and new strategy building.