From The Yield, Spring 2014
Name of School: Lincoln School
Type of school: Day — Nursery to Grade 12
Hilary Fagan ’87, Director of Admission — Prior to Lincoln, Hilary worked in a variety of roles in the financial sales industry. She was
Director, Corporate Client Group at the NASDAQ Stock Market and a research institutional sales associate with Morgan Stanley. Hilary holds a B.A. from Hobart/William Smith Colleges and has completed graduate coursework in statistics, marketing, and business economics.
Lauri Lee, Associate Director of Admission and Marketing — Has over 21 years of professional experience in both public and private education and has held numerous roles in schools in Maryland, Atlanta, and Rhode Island. She has served as a teacher, program manager, technology coordinator, director of development, and director of institutional advancement.
Diane Mota, Administrative Assistant — Prior to joining Lincoln School, Diane held senior positions at various large corporations. Diane attended Stonehill College for Health Care Management.
As a single-sex institution, what challenges/advantages do you feel you face that coed institutions don’t when capturing applicants and enrolling them? How do you address these advantages/challenges in your marketing and communications?
Some families with children of each gender hesitate to send their children to different schools, and they may not even consider looking at single-gender schools. There are also families that don’t understand the benefits of single-gender schools, feeling they are unrealistic in today’s world. Our marketing strategy leads with the unique aspects of Lincoln’s program, and it invests additional resources to educate families about the benefits of all-girls schools. Part of our marketing revolves around global research produced by organizations
like the National Coalition of Girls Schools (NCGS) as well as historical data true to Lincoln’s program. This research provides strong and compelling data on the benefits of attending all-girls schools. For example, a greater percentage of girls who attended an all-girls school tend to pursue higher education in male-dominated fields like engineering, math, and science.
The intentional environment created at Lincoln encourages girls to follow their interests; it gives them a unique advantage over their coed counterparts; and it addresses the gender divide in these fields. Students are engaged intellectually and stretched academically in a supportive environment. This combination gives girls a platform to push themselves, yet minimizes stress levels often found in less girl-centric programs.
One of the biggest challenges that we face is assuring girls that they will have plenty of coed opportunities despite enrolling at an all-girls school. Numerous dances, socials, community engagement, and travel program opportunities provide ample avenues to engage in a coed world. We have to stress this point emphatically to help alleviate this concern.
As a single-sex institution, do you find there are particular grade levels that are more challenging to enroll? Are families more inclined to consider single-sex education at some grade levels over others?
The majority of parents seem open to all-girls learning at every age level. Convincing the students themselves is another story! Elementary school applicants seem extremely interested in going to an all-girls school. Visitors often comment about the freedom they have to be vocal and to discuss and learn, without worrying that the class may rocket out of control! We can see a change in attitude when the applicants get to grade 8. There is more hesitation on their part about an all-girls education.
These girls are certainly not boy crazy, but they seem to feel unsure about leaving boys out of the classroom learning equation. We have found that the best way to overcome this concern is to have the students visit for a day. We are so committed to this strategy for increasing applicants and enrollment that we do not require an application prior to the visit. The visit day experience is critical to our enrollment yield. The visit gives students a perspective on the supportive community, profound teaching, and positive energy at Lincoln. Visitors typically leave feeling inspired by the presence of girls, and they are not focused on the absence of boys.
What admission process benefits do you find as a user of SSATB’s Standard Application Online (SAO)? What recruitment benefits? What percentage of your applications came through the SAO?
Lincoln School has appreciated using SSATB’s Standard Application Online. The SAO provides an organized platform for students to manage multiple applications, and the user interface on the school’s end is easy and organized. It has saved us processing time, and SSATB provides excellent support and analytical services. At this point, a small percentage of our overall applicants use the SAO, but we have seen solid growth this year.
What new marketing strategies or tactics did you employ during this school year? Do you feel they were effective recruitment or retention tools? How do you adjust these strategies or tactics to address lower, middle, and upper school recruitment needs?
Over the last two years, we have focused on three new marketing strategies to improve inquiries. We made a conscious decision to build a robust social media presence to try to reach students on a more modern platform. We now have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest accounts that grow each month. Our Twitter followers increased from 27 to over 350, and our Facebook campaign
exceeded its target with over 1,500 followers to date. These platforms have been helpful in building our brand and reaching a broader audience.
We also began to incorporate more video on our website and YouTube page. The video initiative is home grown and has a raw, student-centered theme. To help produce more in-house video, we have built a video booth on campus, where we can easily film students for web marketing. The third and most successful venture was the introduction of the Community Programming Series underwritten by the admission office. The community series was a strategy we employed when we began to see a decrease in admission activity in our lower school. Lower school enrollment across the county is an area of concern, and even more so in Providence, where we have a sluggish economy and projected population decreases.
Specifically, we started a complimentary Story Time Series for two- to five-year-olds. This grew into a Ballet Series, and this year we added Music in Motion. These events are advertised to the surrounding community through online calendars, admission e-newsletters, local press, and posted flyers in target areas. The concept is to support the local community and to introduce our school to prospective families. These events have been extremely popular (an RSVP is required and we are typically over-subscribed).
Year-to-date, we have seen a huge increase in nursery school inquiries (up 44%) and nursery applications (up 48%). Inviting families to the campus, giving them a chance to see the facilities and meet the faculty, has helped to enhance the school’s position and profile in the community.
What data points do you share with your board? How often do you present to your board?
Hilary attends all board meetings and reports monthly to the board of directors. A written report is submitted prior to each meeting detailing inquiry, application, and visit data – typically showing a five-year comparison. It is important for admission directors to offer a perspective on outreach and yield events, in addition to economic impacts and demographic trends, so that the board is familiar with the nuances of this challenging work. In turn, the board is a terrific resource and support system for admission.
Our board members play an active role in recruiting and yielding new families. They attend open house events and regional admission receptions, and they offer to reach out to newly-accepted families. Our board members are in a key position to form policies that improve the school’s position in the community.
What kind of professional development did you offer your admission team this year? Was there an area of your work in which you wished specific training were available? What areas do you hope to focus on for next year?
Professional development is an important part of keeping informed about admission trends and best practices. It is also a helpful way to stay inspired! The SSATB Annual Meeting offers a chance to hear nationally-known keynote speakers and topical breakout sessions, and provides a platform to stay current, plan your admission season, and make great connections. In addition, our office utilizes various AISNE offerings. Each spring, a member of the office attends the Finalsite conference, which lends particular focus to technology, marketing, and outreach.
From The Yield, Spring 2014