- Independent Schools
If you're at the end of yield season, you're probably ready for a few days off. Yet while your Instagram friends are on #springbreak, you're probably mired in folders and files, hosting revisit days, and resting your hand from writing countless thank-you notes.
Forming incoming classes is challenging, exciting, and at times, exhausting, but the results are well worth it: this time of year represents the culmination of all of your hard work finding right-fit families, holding interviews, reviewing recommendation letters and all the other admissions magic you've performed.
For Avon Old Farms, an all-boys boarding and day school in Connecticut, yield season means shaping an incoming class of about 125 students, and Director of Financial Aid Oliver Rothmann, himself a 2011 alum, relishes the process. "It's an exciting time of year," he shared, "It's fun to show these accepted students the AOF value, and why we think our school is the best place for them."
And while Oliver and his team are busily forming next year's student body, he was kind enough to talk about some new tips for increasing yield this season.
Involve the Entire School in Admissions
"At Avon Old Farms," Oliver shared, "Admissions is really a school-wide priority. We have to depend on every single student, faculty and staff member in order to be our best selves and to make Avon Old Farms enticing."
If you've visited Avon Old Farms' campus, it's quite an experience. Perched on 900 acres in a prime location in the Connecticut river valley with expansive views, the school was designed by Theodate Pope Riddle, a famed female architect whose vision of both the campus' mission—to aspire and persevere—and Cotswold/Tudor architectural style, have remained for nearly a century.
And if you've found yourself, say, a bit lost while visiting campus, as a Finalsite colleague and I once did, you can be sure that every student that passes will greet you with helpful, unprompted directions, or a warm hello. Oliver said this wasn't unique to my experience. "Our boys see older students set this example of welcoming every visitor to campus and being helpful. It sets a tone that younger students follow, and our prospective families tell us this gives them a sense of the community's values."
"Our admissions team is lucky," Oliver said. "We have a Dean of Enrollment who graduated from Avon in 2007, our Associate Director of Admission is from the class of 1999. Our administrative staff are mothers of alums, so from the moment you walk in, the person greeting you has known AOF for a long long time."
This tightly-knit group has strong connections to the school, Oliver said, "That passion for Avon drives all of us in terms of going that extra mile. If you don't love your job, it's hard to fabricate."
So how can you start to involve the whole school if you feel you're on an admissions island? It probably starts from the top. Having a Head of School who makes it a priority to discuss the importance of admissions with faculty and staff, and with the entire school community throughout the year, is key.
Open Houses and revisit days that get teachers, coaches and current students involved are, too. So...
Hold a Stand-Out Revisit Day
If your revisit day is just a simple day of students shadowing classes, it may be time to take some inspiration from Avon Old Farms' Avon Today program, an all-day event held twice during yield season that welcomes admitted students and their parents to classes, activities, panels, and meals in their dining hall.
"We want to give our accepted families the true AOF experience," Oliver said. "Every prospective boy is paired with another student for the entire day. They see the organic classroom experience by going to two or three classes, they go to a clubs and activities fair to see clubs in action, they meet with coaches, and eat in the refectory."
Prospective parents aren't left out of the experience: they're given the chance to talk to faculty and administrators, hear from panels of students and current parents, and ask questions.
Be Creative and Personal in Your Follow-Up Process
Oliver writes handwritten notes to every student that he meets with, and he hears from families that this makes a difference where they're making the decision as to where to enroll. "That personal touch tells families that we care about them," he said.
But, he shared, "Our follow-up process really begins with a strong communications team that helps us be strategic in the ways we start to reach out to families, all the way through acceptance, whether that's digitally through email or in mailers like postcards that show our value."
If writing thank you notes feels a bit overwhelming, think about getting students involved. Whether your school's student tour guides write simple notes or give admitted students a call to answer any questions, this extra follow-up can make the difference in boosting your numbers.
"Families have many choices, whether that's another independent school or a public school, and we really have to go that extra mile," said Oliver.
And while handwriting thank-you notes is a strategy that you can probably start, have you considered embedding videos in follow-up emails? At Finalsite, we've been loving using the Vidyard plugin to share videos from our team. It's free, very easy to use, and it lets you track the number of times an individual views your message. Give it a try in combination with eNotify to send a personal video message to families who are on the fence.
As the yield season is wrapping up and Oliver and his team get a bit of time to reflect, he said, "It's really fun to see these kids excited about Avon or torn between going somewhere else, and working to bring them to our school to be a part of something much greater than themselves, where through this experience, they will embark on a transformative experience and the benefits will last a lifetime."
A successful yield season doesn't just happen; it takes the kind of true engagement, both in person and online, that Oliver shared as the keys to Avon Old Farms' success. This authentic connection can be built through inbound marketing, the concept of attracting and nurturing right-fit families at every stage of their admissions journey with information that adds value as they seek to learn more about your school, apply and ultimately, decide to enroll.
Interested in learning more about inbound marketing for admissions and how to boost your enrollment with new tools? Then check out our upcoming webinar with Finalsite founder and CEO Jon Moser. You'll learn how to fill your funnel, measure your success, and more. Save your spot!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hadley is Finalsite's Director of Communications and is a former independent school teacher, fundraiser and marketing director with a passion for cooking, travel, and spending time outdoors with her growing family. She founded the FinalsiteFM podcast network and enjoys meeting Finalsite clients from around the world.