"Have You Decided Yet?"
Vol. 12 No. 8
In early spring, your Admission Office bustles with news for waiting families and burning questions your staff ask among themselves as they wait for responses as your deadline approaches. How many of your currently enrolled families will re-enroll? How many of your “yes” letters will come back with a signed contract and a check? What if you don’t hit your enrollment goal? What if you're overenrolled?
But these questions can take months to resolve. For those wishing there were a way to speed up the process, we have a few suggestions and incentives to encourage people to get back to you more quickly.
Reach Out and Ask!
If your deadline is fast approaching and you need a better idea of what your numbers are going to be for the upcoming year, why not pick up the phone and call those families still “on the fence”? It’s a small thing to do, and it reminds the family of your personal dedication to their case.
Contacting them over the phone or via e-mail also gives you a chance to clear up any misconceptions or lingering concerns. If they’re worried about finances, remind them that your financial aid program was established to assist mission-appropriate, struggling families. If they’re waiting to hear about other programs, be supportive and encouraging while reminding them of the deadline.
However, don’t become pushy or overbearing. As easy as it is for you to call them, it’s just as simple for them to say “Thanks, but no thanks.” And, they won't hesitate to tell their friends about their negative experience.
Sometimes people are trying to contact you to get their materials in, but Murphy’s Law interferes. Is your voice mail or e-mail system spontaneously deleting or not delivering messages? Did the fax machine run out of paper and no one noticed? Has your intern been placing the mail on the wrong person’s desk? Double-check your current system and processes before assuming parents aren’t getting back to you.
Even if nothing is going wrong, is there a way you can make the process easier and less painful for everyone involved? You may consider going paperless with your contracts or accepting electronic payments online. This transition may change your current infrastructure and support needs, so don’t announce or propose a change without thinking it all the way through—and talking it through with your Head and Business Office. However, upgrading your office may help some of those tardies become on-timers.
A financial incentive may get people moving! While charging such fees can feel less-than-welcoming, the fact is, people making their decision late create more work and effort for your office and your school as a whole, so it may make financial sense to charge for this extra work.
Some schools have begun experimenting with perpetual enrollment, where parents are informed that—barring any sort of terrible catastrophe or their withdrawal—the contract will “roll over” to the next year and the deposit is due at a certain date. Of course, one pitfall to this tactic is that some families may believe that they don’t have to take any action—including paying the deposit—to have their child enrolled in the next year.
Another tactic is to include a small discount for those who register early. While you'll see a small decrease in your overall net income, being able to rest at night knowing you've reached your goal for the year while decreasing the anxiety in your office might be worth it.
While it’s a frustrating time of year for your office, remember that it’s probably just as stressful for the families. Keep your cool and focus on your numbers for the next year, filling your school with happy, mission-appropriate students who will be grateful for the chance to experience the education you and your school will give them.
If you’re thinking about starting late fees and other incentives to spur reluctant families to “fish or cut bait,” sign up for our Admission Officer e-List to see what your colleagues are saying about this and other pertinent topics.
Additional ISM resources:
ISM Monthly Update for Admission Officers Vol. 9 No. 8 Filling Your Seats When Parents Don’t Promptly Re-enroll
ISM Monthly Update for School Heads Vol. 8 No. 5 It’s Re-enrollment Time. How Do You Deal With A Difficult Parent?