This September, nearly 800 of us rolled into Vegas for the annual SSATB conference, marking record attendance for the largest annual gathering of independent school admission professionals. And although some people may have lost money at the blackjack table, everyone had a net gain in terms of takeaways, whether it was learning something new from peer workshops and the featured speakers or connecting with colleagues and building a network.
I can remember the experience of walking into my first SSATB Annual Meeting more than 15 years ago. In one instant I understood this tribe of people. Well dressed and extremely chatty, we are the sales force for independent schools. Over the years, I have developed a greater appreciation for the nuances of our profession and thrived within the relationships and strategic thinking that go hand in hand with working in admission.
This year I also had the opportunity to present as part of a peer workshop with colleagues I have met along the way: Jill Lee, Director of Admission and Financial Aid at Castilleja School; Heather Daly, Assistant Head of School for Enrollment Management at Hawken School; and Colin Lord, Director of Enrollment Management and Financial Aid at The Latin School of Chicago.
Together we share 91 years of admission experience and have learned important lessons along the way. We met at The Crows Nest Institute, an annual conference for experienced admission directors. And while the content of our presentation was to take a comparative look at key elements of our admission programs, the bigger takeaways which we shared that day are as follows:
• Power of collegiality: Make connections, build a network, and develop meaningful friendships with other people in this line of work. Crow’s Nest and the SSATB Annual Meeting are as much about relationship building as they are about the content.
• You are not alone: All schools have challenges. Schools with big endowments and small endowments. Old and new. Market leaders and market followers. Our work in admission is to help identify those challenges and move the bar forward for our institutions.
• Stakes are high: NAIS schools lead the way nationally and globally in secondary education. The stakes are high and the thoughtful stewardship of our schools' admission programs is incredibly important work. Admission officers serve as institutional gatekeepers. Access to our schools can provide students with powerful and life-changing opportunities.
So as you move into the heart of the admission season full of campus tours, student visits, and open houses, be sure to make that extra effort to connect with a colleague at a school fair, keep your network strong, reach out to new and old friends in your admission circles, and always know that what you do day in and day out has the power to change the trajectory of a student and family’s life.
Continue to build your network by participating in some of these great professional development opportunities in the upcoming year:
SSATB Annual Meeting - Get ready for the 2016 SSATB Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD. Consider presenting at a peer workshop or inviting a colleague to attend. (September 14-17, 2016; ATI September 13-14, 2016)
Erdmann Institute for Enrollment Management - The Erdmann Institute is at the forefront of the field of independent school admissions and designed with the goal of advancing knowledge, skill, leadership and community among admission professionals. (July 12-15, 2016)
The Chatham Experience & The Crow’s Nest Institute - Grow personally and professionally by exploring solutions to challenges in the ever-changing marketplace with members of The Baker Group and Chris Baker, an admission professional who literally wrote the NAIS book on enrollment management. The Crow’s Nest Institute (mid to late June) and The Chatham Experience (late April).
AISAP Annual Institute - A great conference to build your network and talk about topical issues in enrollment management (mid-June).
NAIS Aspiring Heads - Build your network outside of admission and enrollment management, and develop leadership skills while cultivating an institutional mindset (accepting applications through November 8, 2015 for the 2016-2017 cohort).
Presentation: Comparative and Competitive Admission Programs