Boosting Abysmal Interdivisional Re-enrollment Rates

Vol. 13 No. 10

admissions eletter Vol13 No10 preK

Not too long ago on the Admission Officer e-List, someone mentioned a struggle to graduate students from the preschool/day care program into the school’s kindergarten classroom. While parents had not complained about the school’s care or education of their children, retention from the preK program to Kindergarten was incredibly low.

If your school struggles with a similar retention issue between grade divisions, the solution may lie in your communication strategy.

This problem of unaligned expectations arises from two competing expectations. When you’re recruiting for lower grades, your office operates from a “life of the student” perspective—that is, you try to evaluate how well a student will “fit” the entire school, not just whether there’s an empty seat in the applied-for grade.

On the other hand, some parents may be looking for a “holdover” solution—a school that will “do” until Johnny or Rebecca is ready to apply to another school that doesn’t offer classes for younger students. These families will “abandon ship” when re-enrollment season comes.

The first step to guaranteeing higher retention rates from lower divisions to upper ones lies in inspiring long-term enrollment commitment from mission-appropriate families—right from the first admission conversation.

Initial Conversation

  • Make your school’s commitment to the entire academic life of each students clear when you discuss your school’s mission and educational philosophy.
  • Ensure the family sees the entire school during the tour, not just the applied-for division.
  • Ask responsible upper school students to serve as student tour guides and volunteers in recruitment events.

Continued Communication

  • Your school newspaper should focus on accomplishments from the whole school, not just division-specific events. (Few parents will have the inclination or energy to read both a general and a division-specific newsletter.)
  • Encourage upper school students to volunteer with younger students, during both regular class hours and recruitment events.
  • Invite lower division parents to socials with upper division parents, and lower division families to appropriate upper division events like Field Day or a student theater production.
  • If your school has an automated re-enrollment system, consider automatically enrolling lower division students in the upper division for the next year while clearly communicating the contractual obligations of such a system to all parents, prospective and current.

Approaching every prospective family with the transparent expectation that they will remain at the school for the duration of their child’s academic career (barring unforeseen circumstances) may cause certain families to withdraw their applications. While their loss may seem like a negative, these families self-selecting out of the process will allow you to give those seats to families who will stick with your school for the “long haul,” creating a more mission-driven and dedicated school community.

Additional ISM resources:
ISM Monthly Update for Admission Officers Vol. 13 No. 6 Re-enrollment Communication 101
ISM Monthly Update for Admission Officers Vol. 12 No. 9 Perpetual Enrollment: Is It Right for Your School?

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 38 No. 2 Who Is Responsible for Enrollment Management?
I&P Vol. 37 No. 9 Managing the Fiscal Realities of Enrollment Management

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