Summer Enrollment: Motivation Matters Most

Vol. 13 No. 10

admissions eletter Vol13 No10 emptyseats

Summer vacation’s almost here for your faculty and students, but you may still have seats to fill, turning your school’s empty nest into a full house of mission-appropriate students. But how do you engage families during a time when classrooms are empty, teachers are away from campus, and your contractor’s placed “Do Not Enter” signs around the renovations?

Don’t worry! Amy Riley, ISM Consultant and Academic Dean for our IACP certification, has a few ideas on how to turn a hot mess of summer visits into an effective recruitment program.

  • Discover why a family is applying outside of the “normal” application timeline. Have they relocated to the area? Were their applications to other schools turned down? Discreet questions can separate the mission-appropriate families who arrive at your door due to circumstances from those trying to hide their child’s less-than-stellar qualities by applying during an adult-dominated season.
  • Schedule around your available administrators and teachers. Arrange for your “normal” evaluators to be around the school for a few days, and arrange for prospective students to visit then. Minimize the number of tours you offer outside of these prearranged times.
  • Create grouped encounters. Applicants during the regular school year must run the gauntlet of student and teacher interactions, and so should your summer applicants. Schedule morning or afternoon “events” at school with a volunteer teacher and some regular students to recreate the classroom atmosphere—and make prospective student attendance mandatory for his or her application to be considered. This guarantees you a comprehensive picture of your applicant, just as you get during the school year.
    • Note: Do not use normal social events for admitted students as your prospective students’ group encounter, like new parent mixers or BBQs. If these prospective students are not mission-appropriate, you’ll risk generating resentment and worries in your school community that you’ll be accepting students who are a bad fit. You may also imply to prospective families that their children are already accepted and the process is just a formality, which creates anger when mission-inappropriate students are denied.
  • Paperwork is the parent’s responsibility. Since schools tend to shut down or run on minimal administrative support from June until mid-July, getting necessary paperwork for the application can be a problem. Make sure your prospective families understand that it’s the family’s responsibility to arrange for the necessary permission to obtain and deliver paperwork from the previous school. Let them know what information you have and what’s missing—but again, it’s the family’s job to track down the absent pieces, not yours. Also, never accept paperwork from a parent! Require direct delivery from the previous institution to maintain the confidentiality of sensitive documents like student evaluations.

How will your office handle summer applicants this year? We’d love to know how schools successfully navigate this tricky time in the recruitment process.

Additional ISM resources:
Private School News Vol. 13 No. 6 "What Your Students Did Over Summer Vacation"
ISM Monthly Update for Admission Officers Vol. 11 No. 8 Bonding With Your New Families Over the Summer

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 39 No. 11 Hiring, Preparing, and Training Staff for Your Summer Program
I&P Vol. 40 No. 3 Summer Program: The Third 'Semester'

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