From The Yield, Spring 2014
With applications read and acceptances offered, admission offices turn their attention to the most critical phase in the process, enrollment yield. For many schools, success may be predicated on the management of on-campus events known to many school communities as revisit days. For our continuing series, The Yield polled a seasoned veteran, a mid-career professional, and a new admission officer about the importance of these events and about their office’s enrollment efforts:
Cathy Shelburne, director of professional development, California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS)
Benjamin Douglass, director of admission and financial aid, Saint James School (MD)
Allison Letourneau, associate head of school for enrollment management, The White Mountain School (NH)
What are the pros and cons of hosting a revisit day?
CS: In my experience as a former classroom teacher and dean at a boarding school, it is clear that when everyone on your school’s campus is aligned with admission objectives — administration, faculty, facilities, and students — this alignment improves the experience for prospective students and families and also helps manage expectations for faculty. These things all, in turn, should improve yield. On the negative side, revisit days take time and resources away from the regular academic program and activities for enrolled students and faculty. Due to scheduling constraints, collaborating on revisit days with your local school consortium might advantage some schools and disadvantage others.
BD: The benefits of having a revisit day are that your hand-selected applicants have the opportunity to come back to campus knowing that they have made the grade, and that you have the opportunity to have your target students as a captive audience AGAIN. You are able to interact specifically with the students whom you want to enroll, unlike an open house where the students are a more varied group. You can speak directly to their important questions, concerns, hopes, and dreams. Careful planning and communication with the various constituents are extremely important, and trust in your community and your plan must remain paramount. Things may go wrong on a revisit day. As perfect and smooth as we’d all love to make the experience, it might be just as important for the accepted students and parents to see what the school’s response would be should something go awry. This experience isn’t necessarily clean or pretty, but it is real, and that can be reassuring too.
AL: I think revisit days serve as an excellent opportunity for students to visit schools without the pressure and stress of worrying whether they will “make the cut.” In a small office like Oldfields, there is no doubt that a revisit day is an “all-hands-on-deck” event and requires a significant amount of planning. That being said, the revisit day experience is a prime opportunity for the “newbie” in the office to tackle the planning and to implement innovative ways to engage accepted students. It takes a great deal of work, but the ROI can be beyond quantifiable.
How do you involve current students, parents, faculty, and staff?
CS: Menlo is a day school in the San Francisco Bay area. The Bay Area Admission Directors (BAAD) consortium stipulates that we have a “quiet week” after notifying families in March. Consequently, we don’t host revisit days. That said, some schools in our consortium provide a spring “visit” day for admitted students, who, for whatever reason, did not have an opportunity to visit campus during a school day prior to the mailing of decision letters.
BD: Revisit days are something the entire Saint James School community looks forward to each year. We do our best to involve as many different groups that love the school as possible. Students act as hosts/shadows for the accepted students; our parent committee hosts a reception at a local restaurant for the parents of newly-accepted students; and the faculty and staff hang out and have fun with the entire student body. We don’t try to “manufacture fun” for anyone — we just welcome them into a day in the life at Saint James and let the community sell itself.
AL: At Oldfields, we select current students to serve as hosts for our visitors. Our boarding students host their visitors for an overnight stay and full day of classes, and our day students host their visitors for a full day of classes. In the classroom, we ask our teachers to prepare a class that will engage their visitors. We also provide our teachers with a list of students who will be visiting their classes in order to create an intimate and realistic environment for our visiting students.
How have revisit days impacted your enrollment? What percentage of students who attend revisit days enroll?
CS: Because our consortium doesn’t allow for a revisit period, it is difficult to gauge whether not having a revisit day affects our school. However, we see no inherent disadvantage.
BD: I wish I knew the answer more precisely, but I do know revisit days have had a very positive effect on enrollment. Over the last several years, we have yielded around 80% of the students who attended the revisit day. The question for us is: Are those students self-selecting by attending the revisit day in the first place, or is the revisit day actually changing minds and influencing opinions? Either way, the revisit day is a valuable yield tool. We will be using surveys (at the beginning and end of the event) to see if we can better understand the effects of the revisit experience. That being said, even if hearts and minds aren’t changed, and we are only preaching to the choir, it is valuable to have newly-accepted students excited about attending our school and spreading the word to their friends.
AL: Our revisit days at Oldfields have certainly helped our enrollment over the years, but like anything, there is always room for improvement. My new strategy has been to meet with several of our current students to gain an additional perspective on what does and doesn’t work. In casual conversations with our students and their parents, it seems evident that creativity can be a simple, yet highly effective, way to yield a family. For a “newbie” like me, creativity and the willingness to step outside the box has been the key ingredient—I’m excited to see how our revisit day goes this year!