From The Yield, Winter 2013
Berkeley Preparatory School , Tampa, Florida
What do you do to capitalize on feeder school relationships for recruitment? What strategies would you recommend for cultivating and supporting such relationships?
Fostering and maintaining positive relationships with feeder schools is very important and for the greater good of all involved. Having that alliance enables the admission officer to have candid conversations about an applicant when necessary. If you only have occasional contact, forthright and comfortable discussion may be a challenge.
I would suggest getting to know their key personnel. At least once a year, make it a point to have lunch with the admission directors at the various feeder schools in your market. Discuss any curricular changes, local trends, notification dates, open houses, and special events that may have occurred. Remember that your feeder schools want to ensure that their students make a smooth transition to the next level of education, and finding the right match is critical to them. Make it a point to reach out to their middle school director, as you may need to contact him/her for further clarification on an applicant recommendation. Utilize your head of school to nurture the partnership between schools. Also be sure to say thank you for their students in some way. At Berkeley, we host a luncheon or dinner for all our feeder school administrators.
One strategy we’ve found to be particularly successfully in nurturing relationships with our feeder schools is including their alumni when visiting their schools. Graduates love to return to their alma mater, and their former teachers enjoy seeing how they’ve progressed and grown. We invite the head, division directors, and admission directors to have lunch with former students. It’s a wonderful way for former students and staff to catch up and for them to hear about the value of a Berkeley education.
What are your most effective recruitment tools? What strategies have you found to be most successful in cultivating your applicant pool?
In addition to attending feeder school events to engage with eighth graders and their parents, our admission open houses play a vital role in cultivating our applicant pool. Our open houses create opportunities for our prospective families to meet our teaching staff and to learn about their teaching philosophy. Our student tour guides and current parents conduct open house campus tours together, giving prospective families the chance to chat with people other than our admissions team. Shadowing gives prospective students the opportunity to meet our teachers and students as well as attending convocation, and enjoying lunch in the Berkeley Café. My belief is that multiple trips to campus are a key part of the recruitment process in order to give prospects a palpable sense of Berkeley’s culture and traditions.
In addition to word-of-mouth marketing, parent coffees, and direct mail pieces, the utilization of social media, and vanity URLs on printed material ensure that our message is “heard” through a variety of media. We mail touch points such as holiday cards and publications throughout the year to maintain a connection with our prospective families.
In early May, I sit down with our Director of Communications to begin planning strategically for next year’s marketing campaign. Data from the recent enrollment season such as gender, ethnicity, overall application numbers that are grade-specific, extra-curricular interests of our applicant pool, and geographic opportunities are considered, in order to determine who our target audience will be. These data obviously shape the advertising, social media, and web presence designed to create brand awareness among the target audience.
Have you implemented new recruitment tools/techniques this year?
This year we started a new tradition called “Tuesday Tours.” Our prospective pre-kindergarten and kindergarten parents are invited to have breakfast with our Headmaster in our new Berkeley Café. After breakfast, they are given a tour of our Lower Division by Berkeley “Lifers,” our students that have been with us since pre-k or kindergarten. This new event has been very well received. In addition to meeting our Headmaster, parents have direct interaction with our “finished product,” a junior or senior, whose entire school career has been at Berkeley.
Does your office have an admission committee that consists of members outside your admission staff? Tell us about the composition of your admission committee. What strengths do you want in members to bring to the committee process?
Our office has three different admission committees: Lower (Pre-K-5th), Middle (6th-8th), and Upper (9th-12th). Our Director of Admissions serves on all three committees and reads all applicant files. The Lower and Middle Division Admissions Committees have their own dedicated Associate Director of Admissions who manages each committee, while the Director of Admissions manages the Upper Division Admissions Committee. In addition to the Director of Admissions and Associate Director of Admissions, our Admissions Committees involve a number of non-admissions faculty/staff, including teachers, division directors, faculty deans, academic/guidance counselors, and athletic directors (at the upper level). We also utilize English teachers to grade middle and upper level applicants’ writing samples.
Do you employ an application review rubric? Can you elaborate on what your key elements are in the review process?
Our admissions files are circulated to committee members for review, and admissions committee meetings are held once a week beginning in January. While we don’t use an actual rubric in assessing applicants, our “blue sheets” require us to evaluate key information including SSAT scores, three years of grades, teacher recommendations, OLSAT (Otis Lennon School Ability Test) scores, writing samples, and interview notes (for upper division candidates). In the case of the Lower Division, we utilize Children’s Progress and our own in-house assessments.
All members of the committees are taught to complete their blue sheet without reading other committee members’ candidate assessments. When we gather as a group, our applicants are thoroughly discussed and preliminary decisions are made. The Admission Director shares these decisions with the Headmaster, with whom decisions are finalized. Confidentiality is key and NAIS’s Principles of Good Practice are shared with our committees every year.
What advice do you offer your staff during the busy admission season?
Every August our admission team goes on a one-day retreat. It’s always a surprise, and held at an off-campus site that is special or significant to the Tampa Bay community. We take the time to set annual goals, strategize, and develop a theme for the upcoming year. Our purpose in having an annual retreat is two-fold: first, we want to create a memory. It is vital that the team remember that brief one-day respite and the camaraderie that exists among our staff. This helps when in the midst of a very busy admission season, we remember that we are a group of individuals which supports one another. Second, we want staff to recall how we were treated when we were guests at a particular venue. During the height of the admission season, and despite the frantic pace, it is an important reminder that every individual that inquires or visits our school should receive the red carpet treatment, a lesson we learned from The Celebrity Experience, by Donna Cutting.
Name of School: Berkeley Preparatory School
School Type: Co-educational Day School Grades Pre-K –12
Janie McIlvaine, Director of Admissions — Janie graduated from James Madison University with a B.S. in Education, and after attending Johns Hopkins University and the University of Georgia, completed her M.A. in Education from Northern Kentucky University. Janie taught first through sixth grade in several different states and enjoyed a brief stint in radio while living in Atlanta. The mother of three grown children, she learned about the admission process from a parent’s perspective. Janie joined Berkeley’s admission office 15 years ago and has been their Director of Admissions for nine years. She oversees all aspects of lower, middle, and upper division admission.
Paula Tevnan, Associate Director of Admissions — Paula graduated from the University of Delaware with a B.A. in Communications and a minor in Spanish. She is now in her thirteenth year of admission work. She served as the Assistant Director of Admission at Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, FL, and she continued her career in admissions at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. Paula is now in her sixth year as Associate Director of Admissions at Berkeley Preparatory School. She is responsible for middle division admission (grades 6-8).
Beth Mariani, Associate Director of Admissions — Beth graduated from the University of South Florida with a B.S. in Early Childhood Education and holds an M.A. in Educational Leadership from Argosy University. After teaching Kindergarten for three years and third grade for eight years, she became the educational coordinator of a local charter school. Beth is beginning her fifth year at Berkeley as Associate Director of Admissions and is responsible for lower division admission (grades Pre-K-5).
Julia Loncar — Director of Communications
Tina Leuang — Admissions Administrative Assistant
Wendy Robbins — Admissions Administrative Assistant