Finding the right school is a big commitment, both financially and emotionally for most families. For this reason, it’s important that you map out what the admissions journey looks like for your school. And by doing so you can help make the steps as easy as possible for your future families. When families have the right information at the right step in their admissions journey, you’ll naturally increase enrolment numbers for your school. In Episode Eight of The Admissions Club, our experts run you through mapping your school's admissions journeys, with tips and tricks to make it as efficient as possible.
Your school’s admissions journey is the whole experience a family has when interacting with your school until their family starts their first day.
The process always starts with awareness. The family decides that they want quality education for their child, and start searching for a school. Right now the important thing if you’re a school is to be where parents are looking. And these days, that’s mostly online. Think Google.
The next step is consideration. They aren’t ready to enrol yet but are starting to narrow down their lists and are looking for specific programs or courses. For this step, it’s important that parents can easily find information about your school.
To get on a parent’s shortlist, your website needs to show them what makes your school unique. It’s important that you have a solid understanding of your unique selling points, so you can set yourself up for success and present your school in as positive a light as possible.
Once you’ve made it to the family’s shortlist, they enter the ‘intent’ phase. Here, you want to be accessible to families and make it easy for them to connect with your admissions team, where any questions or concerns they have can be answered.
Families can reach out in a variety of ways. Many will use your online enquiry forms, and others might email or call your team to get more information. This is the best time to grab some crucial data that can help you personalise the rest of the family’s admissions journey.
You’re now on the home stretch, where you nurture your family to enrolment. At this stage, creating a bond and truly showing what being part of your school community will be like becomes extremely important.
“You're competing head-on with the experience they have in another school, which makes it crucial to target all the correct selling points.” - Bianca Coleborn
“The ‘admissions pipeline’ is just a fancy way of mapping the process from the first touch point a potential future student or their parents may have with your school, right through to the point that they enrol with you.” - Mary-Lou O’Brien
The number one advantage of having an admissions pipeline is being able to clearly see what stage a lead is in, so you can target them properly.
“Working in admissions, being able to say I need a list of prospects that are interested in this grade that has not yet been to an Open House, has a real advantage.” - Kim Donoghue
Another advantage of an admissions pipeline is that you can look forward to future cohorts and see where you might be tracking behind. So you can make decisions about where to spend your marketing budget to drive new enquiries. Your pipeline is more than just your admissions process. It gives you the tools to track and analyse the effectiveness of the customer journey you've laid out, as well as your advertising spend.
Generally, school’s have a few common steps in their enrolment journey. For most families, the journey involves information gathering, attending a tour, and then all of the things that come after that, like scheduled assessments or interviews.
“Each school will be different, but it usually contains the following steps: inquiry, attend an on-campus event like an open house, apply, interview, receive a letter of offer, and accept the offer.” - Georgie O-Brien
To create a positive admissions experience, it's important that families feel you get them with even a little bit of information, which you can use to create really personal experiences that make them want to enrol with your school. The easiest way to get this information is through your online forms, which feed the data to your school CRM.
You can do this by collecting basic information about students, like birthdays and special interests, which will help you to personalise their experience as they move through the admissions journey. You can use this info to personalise your communication with that family. But the opportunity to personalise goes even further.
“Imagine being able to invite a student with an interest in music to spend time with your head of music at an open day, or inviting them to a music recital so they can experience your school's community first hand.” - Georgie O’Neal
The digitisation of processes can provide you with access to a primary source of clean data, which can be invaluable for creating reports and using filters to ensure that every interaction at every contact point is personalised.
Remember that at every contact point you’re building stronger connections, and if done well you can almost guarantee growth in your enrolment numbers (and perhaps even a big donation in the future!).
“A lot of schools that I work with are starting to use smart software solutions like Funnel to leverage what they know about prospective students, and what they can learn about their interests. From sending curated information about academic or athletic performance in areas of interest to inviting students to see on-site experiences like a game of football or a band performance; this is really the new standard in building a premium admissions experience.” - Georgie O’Neale
Personalisation can have a big impact on the customer experience of future families. Turning these families into advocates of even pre-admission is a smart marketing move too: many of these families know other families with similar-aged kids, also looking for schools. A positive experience means referrals from these families even before they officially become part of your school community.
“We provide a welcome gift to families when they enrol. Our four and five-year-old prep students receive a personalised box in the post with a bucket hat, branded pencils, and their house mascot colouring in sheets. The kid loves it because they've received a special gift from their new school. The parents love it and go tell their friends about how amazing their school is.” - Bianca Coleborn
A good school CRM, or customer relationship manager, is a tool that will help you nurture families through your admissions pipeline, which means you can do your job more easily and more efficiently. It saves admissions teams a ton of time that they can better use to build strong relationships with prospective families.
With an all-in-one school CRM like Digistorm Funnel, you can collect data with online forms, send personalised messages, automate repetitive tasks, and manage events. You'll have a bird's eye view of all the steps in your admissions pipeline. So you can make more data-based decisions.
“We use our school CRM every day and I can't imagine how we would do our work without it. I can track leads. I can run reports, I can manage events, can set automation. I can do all sorts of things that make life easier for my team.” - Bianca Coleborn
Giving families the right information at the right time and in the most personalised way possible is your key to successfully growing your admissions numbers. Mapping your admissions journey and using the right technology can help you create an engaging and high-converting pipeline for your school (even if you’re a small team!) You’ll find a ton of helpful articles and inspiration for mapping out your school’s admissions journey in the resources section.