With commencement ceremonies a recent memory, independent school admission offices across the globe are recalibrating and reflecting on the past cycle while simultaneously synthesizing and strategizing for the year ahead. Spring and summer planning agendas are likely well underway, and forecasting enrollment targets and financial aid projections, revamping applications, reviewing recent outreach initiatives, and brainstorming new marketing plans are no doubt on the docket for discussion. Yet many admission teams are also recognizing that a critical focus of this annual reflection and mindful forward planning should also be embracing world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset” -- collectively as an office and individually as an admission professional. Put Dweck’s 2008 book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success on your summer reading slate if you haven’t come across her work already and at the very least check out her TED talk: The Power of Believing That You Can Improve
The bottom line with Dweck’s universal theory is that learning, rather than being learned, trumps all.
So, how can this specifically translate to your work on both the macro and micro levels? How can you begin to embrace a “growth mindset” personally and as an office if you are not focused on this already?
While many of these ideas may already be a reality at your school, the Admission Leadership Council (ALC) thought it would be helpful to provide a short list of suggested “growth” opportunities (or reminders) for your campus and beyond, building off of the salient keynote by Stephanie Rogan of Greenwich Leadership Partners at the recent ALC Spring Seminar in Avon, CT:
1) Learn beyond your office walls. Make the time, particularly during your admission downtime (if that exists in your office - possibly late spring, summer, early fall) to observe faculty and the administration at your school in a variety of ways. Visit classes, stop in on dorm duty, walk through the main study areas/snack bar at night, observe coaches in action on the playing fields. Enriching your institutional knowledge and providing yourself with a lens beyond admission will not only help you speak more authentically about your school but will also help you grow as a professional, whether you remain at your school for two years or twenty.
2) Connect locally. Reach out to local or peer schools to schedule a campus tour/visit, speak to students and faculty, and share admission trends. Often, we are afraid to open up to our school networks for fear of releasing state secrets, yet we have much to learn from each other if we focus on collaborating rather than competing. No reason to give away your latest and greatest ideas, but we can all grow by sharing information and figuring out ways to collectively educate more families about the value of an independent school education. When I was a financial aid director, I always found that my most informative professional growth opportunity of the year was connecting with other east coast financial aid folks every fall and spring as part of our AFAO (Association of Financial Aid Officers) bi-annual gatherings. Be proactive in looking for (or creating) such chances to exchange with colleagues and friends.
3) Solicit feedback. Survey accepted students and parents in the spring or summer regarding their recent admission experience. Better yet, survey prospective families throughout the admission cycle. Organize focus groups on campus and off. Find new students, tour guides, faculty, staff, current parents, placement directors, consultants - you name it - and ask them for their thoughts. Invite constructive criticism and be open to exploring new ways for your office.
3) Seek out mentors. Many schools have some sort of in-house mentorship for new faculty and staff. Take advantage of such resources. Additionally, seek out mentors on your own –both at your school and in the broader admission community and beyond. For new admission directors, the ALC just completed the pilot year of our Mentorship Initiative Program, pairing an ALC member with a new admission director that attended SSATB’s Admission Training Institute (ATI). Stay tuned for the expansion of this mentoring initiative in the months to come.
4) Be current. Whether you scour the New York Times for their latest education pieces, read SSATB’s “The Yield” and other independent and public school magazines front to back, or skim and stalk the plethora of blogs on education, admissions, teaching and learning, etc., the more that you can keep abreast of the times, the more effectively you can do your job. Take every opportunity (or perhaps a quiet moment or two over the summer) to stay attuned to what is going on out there and how that can best inform your practices. Send daily links around in your office, talk current happenings and trends, and focus on how the broader world can enhance and impact your day-to-day operations.
5) Make new knowledge and networks a priority. The goal of the SSATB annual conference is to talk trends, provide opportunities for professional growth, and afford colleagues the chance to network and learn from folks that they might not otherwise encounter in their routine travels. Beyond SSATB and the Admission Training Institute (ATI), there are now a plethora of additional opportunities for personal and professional development including the SSATB ALC Spring Seminars, the annual TABS December conference, TABS Summer Sessions, the annual NAIS conference, SSS Financial Aid conference, NAIS People of Color conference, and the Erdmann Institute for Enrollment Leadership. Recently announced, SSATB is partnering with USC for the Leadership in Enrollment Management Certificate. Take advantage of these programs and resources as you craft your short and long term goals for yourself and your office. Promote ways to build yourself and your team, and do not be afraid to seek out new avenues for enrichment. Your whole office can reap the benefits of such professional development if done right.
Best wishes getting your growth mindset on this summer, and we hope to see you in Nevada in September!
Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success - http://mindsetonline.com/
Ted Talk, The Power of Believing that you can Improve - http://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve?language=en
SSATB Annual Meeting - http://am.enrollment.org