by Bruce Mutch
The expression “we are all admission officers” is often heard in school meetings and presentations, but is it truly understood by the faculty and staff at your school? Research shows that it only takes seven seconds for your brain to make thousands of imprints about people you meet. From the time a prospective family enters the reception area, they are forming impressions. From the janitorial staff they see in the building to the science teacher they visit during a tour, impressions are made and saved. How can we ensure they’re both lasting and positive?
Understanding Their Role
Ensuring that faculty members at your school have a clear understanding of their role within admission is vital. All schools have different levels of expectations for their faculty. As the director of admission, it can be challenging to convey the importance of faculty interaction without sounding self serving. Having the support of your head of school, who can clearly articulate these expectations, is fundamental to a successful admission approach.
It is equally important for faculty to understand that the admission office has a place in the classroom. At Ashbury, all admission staff are expected to attend one class per month to witness firsthand the exciting initiatives happening. I equate this 50-minute commitment each month to the product knowledge sessions that are required in many successful corporations and organizations. Our faculty members are always happy to open their doors and proud to share their work with another adult.
Each school has a variety of unique aspects that all faculty should know. Numbers such as school population, boarding vs. day breakdown, or countries represented on campus should all be readily conveyed. Cheat sheets, fun videos, or talking points during professional development sessions are all ways to remind your faculty of these metrics and their importance. Just like the infamous elevator pitch scenario, be sure that each of your faculty members can talk comfortably about your school for 30 seconds. Arming staff with your school’s differentiators and key talking points can also be very helpful— especially before open houses or parent-teacher interviews.
Beyond the Walls
Always remember that your school is made up people, each of whom brings a different perspective and set of skills to your institution. Learn to leverage your faculty members’ involvements outside of the classroom. Do you have teachers who are involved in recreational sports or local arts, music, or community organizations? Find out—and then share that involvement with potential families. Community partnerships often equate to applications from first-generation families, provided those partnerships are strategic and well maintained.
Let your faculty expertise shine off campus as well. We often ask the faculty responsible for internal school clubs to join us for external admission events. The faculty coach of our robotics team recently became the star attraction at our admission booth at the city science fair. He brought along the robot our kids built and demonstrated its abilities to a crowd of awestruck onlookers. Teachers in our music department alerted us to sponsorship opportunities for our school with various local music festivals, including the ability to host them on our campus. All of these events highlight faculty expertise and create a unity within the school that is admission centered.
Admission as Curriculum
Does your school offer business studies? Economics? Entrepreneurship? If so, consider putting students studying those subjects to work as your school’s salesforce. They can provide firsthand perspective on your school’s advantages and earn credits by doing so.
At Ashbury, we’ve developed a curriculum-based admission event called Experience Ashbury Day, where business students create and execute programming aimed at prospective families. The students pitch their ideas Shark Tank-style, and trust me when I say these proposals are unlike anything the admission office or marketing and communications office could invent—they are brilliant. The students have fun thinking of games or activities to convey the school’s top advantages to their peers and parents. Admission staff then select the top three to four program ideas, which are developed into an actual itinerary by the whole class.
The results have included a variety of events ranging from a mock game show entitled “Are You Smarter than an Ashbury Prefect?” to a Passport to Ashbury exercise where students had to discover key information about the school through exploration. This is always one of my favourite admission events of the year, and our students love it as well. The fact that they finesse their marketing and project management skills in the process is an added bonus.
A successful admission approach comes down to cultivating successful relationships. Turning your faculty members into admission officers is the best way to make those seven seconds of a first impression count. When faculty members know that admission is working with them, they will be more inclined to support your office, and when you realize your faculty members are your greatest ambassadors, it makes those enrollment targets easier to hit. Whether we’re teachers or staff working at a school, we all must be driving in the same direction in order to move the bus forward.
Bruce Mutch is an ALC member and director of admission at Ashbury College (ON, Canada)