I would love to hear from any of you who still can say that summer is a “slow” time in the admission office. Compared to what? Of course, there are busier times in the year, but it seems there really is no down time any longer, considering that most admission offices have skeleton staffs during the summer months, and that families wary of the economy are taking more time to make the decision to invest in years of paying tuition.
Any of us who have been doing admission work at independent schools for several years probably remember our summers as being “slow.” We remember cleaning up our offices, setting up new files for the following school year, having shorter work hours, and barely hearing our phones ring.
Now our skeleton summer admission crews are working through fast-paced days with re-enrollment, late acceptances and declines, and wait lists. June through August are turning out to be just as busy as the rest of the school year and sometimes present even more challenges.
A closer look will show that in the weeks between May 25 and June 25, we had 23 students who declined offers of admission. Twenty-one students’ parents notified us that their children were not returning, even though our deadline for notification to cancel contract is May 30. We enrolled 42 new students, many who had been on the wait list, and 12 students who had not planned to return changed plans, so we re-enrolled them. In addition to this, there has not been one day at either campus when we didn’t have tours for prospective families. Some were interested in admission in 2013/14; most were out of town, country, or state visitors looking for 2014/15.
And yet, it seems these activities are not enough work for admission during the summers! Here are some other activities in which we were involved: We received 23 new applications for various grades (some already filled, with families knowing that the most likely outcome would be “wait list”). And we have extended 76 financial aid awards (our deadline to complete that process every year is April 1).
There are many factors that have changed. First, we are still dealing with a tough economy. Parents are more hesitant than they were years ago to commit to tuition at our schools. They foresee impending college and the costs involved. There are many more options now that were not as readily available previously, with charter schools, IB programs, and tuition discounting at some schools, to name only a few.
There seems to be much less urgency about completing school-related processes by the deadline dates, and fewer families seem to read instructions carefully so that they are aware they need to complete any of the required processes or meet deadlines. Email is helpful, and we use it to remind our parents of what is still needed. However, in the past few years, the number of parents who actually read and respond to the email messages has also diminished.
The admission process for K-12 is changing, which raises a question: As families change their enrollment patterns en masse, do we move forward as usual or do we make changes in our admission processes in order to respond to these new patterns?
As in previous years, we are reviewing all our forms and making changes to our website, but are also trying to find new and different ways to communicate with our constituents. Of course, we are still sending welcome letters to new families, making calls to each one of them, and preparing for our events for the new school year. Lazy days of summer, indeed!