From Memberanda (The Yield), Fall 2012
In spring 2012, Fran Ryan, Assistant Headmaster at Rumsey Hall School (CT), and EMA's Aimee Gruber endeavored to ask students who had just completed the independent high school application process just what they thought about the process. The online survey instrument was distributed to students through directors of secondary school placement in schools throughout the United States. Over 250 students responded to the survey; 53 percent were girls and 47 percent were boys. As admission offices gear up for this season’s round of open houses, tours, interviews, and the like, we thought it would be useful to keep a few things in mind as reported by schools’ most important customers – kids! (Of kids responding to the survey, 48 percent reported that they alone made the final decision about which school to attend.)
On average, students responding to the survey noted that they applied to about four schools. Somewhat surprisingly, 85 percent of the students surveyed said that email was their preferred method of communicating with prospective schools during the application process. Phone came in at a very distant second, at 7.5 percent. Both Facebook and text messaging ranked extremely low in terms of preference. Probably not surprising is that kids prefer to go on school tours alone (just with their parents), rather than in a group. While 4 percent said they did not go on a tour, 78 percent preferred individual family tours to group tours (18 percent).
Those responsible for the training of student tour guides should not underestimate their influence on a family’s decision to apply to your school! Forty-eight percent (48%) of the students surveyed said that the student tour guides were “somewhat influential” in their decision to apply to a school, and 33 percent said they were “very influential.” Sixteen percent (16%) said they did not apply to a school due to a negative experience with a tour guide. Forty-four percent (44%) said they attended a revisit day or overnight, and 36 percent of them said these revisit/ overnights were influential in their school choice decision.
Finally, it is important to remember why students choose schools in the first place. Over half of the students surveyed (58%) chose academic program as one of the most important factors in choosing the schools to which they applied. Proximity to home and other location/geographic considerations also ranked among the most important factors.