Virtual admissions has become an integral part of private and independent school’s strategy to meet enrollment goals and continue to grow during this new season.
COVID-19 has brought many challenges, but it’s also created a school environment that’s rife with opportunity. You have the chance to create a more efficient, streamlined, and organized process that is much more convenient for your families and appeals to a wider audience.
There are five key aspects of virtual admissions you should take some time to address, perfect, and hone in on including your virtual events, technology, communication, remote team, and website and marketing to set yourself up for a great year ahead- one that will ensure you meet your goals and continue to thrive.
Here’s why you should invest your time in virtual admissions and how to get started optimizing these five key parts of your process.
For more tips and worksheets to help you start optimizing your admission process check out our ebook, the Admissions Refresh Handbook to prepare for your best year yet.
Why Should I Invest in Virtual Admissions?
Have you questioned if optimizing your admissions strategy for a virtual world is worth the effort? While virtual admissions may seem like nothing more than a buzzword or a fleeting and temporary solution to your time away from your school campus, it’s probably here to stay in some capacity.
With accessibility and convenience pushing their way to the top of people’s core needs and desires, running key parts of your admissions process virtually, or at least having the option available, is one way to keep a leg up over the competition and delight your families with options. The good news is you’ve already made many of the changes needed to accommodate and serve families in an entirely virtual world.
Keeping the virtual aspects of your admissions process gives you the chance to appeal to every kind of student. And with online applications, deposits, and form options, you can ensure your school is never left behind or forgotten by families due to inaccessibility or a difficult process.
But in order to really thrive in the virtual world of admissions, you need to assess a few core parts of your process and approach to make sure everything is up to par.
Perfecting Your Virtual Events
Admission events are typically one of the primary ways for you to reach inquiries and prospective students, help them envision themselves at your school, and solidify your school as their top contender. But with COVID-19 throwing a wrench in your school’s usual plan of execution, you’ve had to make a quick shift to re-create these magical and impactful experiences virtually. From virtual revisit days to virtual open houses and shadow days, you’ve likely had to be more creative than ever.
While the changes have likely resulted in some grueling days and re-planning sessions, In the long term, this will be a good thing. It’s becoming more and more apparent that at least some percentage of virtual events are here to stay. Virtual events can help you reach more families in a way that is convenient for them and cost-effective for you. And you can still make your virtual events stand out.
5 Quick Tips for Running a Virtual Event:
1. Start with your goals and let that shape your approach
Set goals for your event so you can measure your success and pick a format that will help you achieve your goals.
2. Pick the format and make a plan
Create a clear plan and organize your event. Make sure everyone involved knows the order of speakers, information that will be shared, and who is sharing the information. Think about which portions of your event would work best as a pre-recorded video, Q+A session, or free form discussion.
3. Find and master your platform
Pick a platform for your event that works best for your team and goals. You can explore different options like Zoom, Facebook Live, or Google Hangouts. If you’re new to hosting virtual events, familiarizing yourself with the right technology can help you run smooth, fun, and organized events. Plus, you can even create fun backgrounds to show off your campus, classrooms, and school as a whole.
4. Designate your host and coordinator
Make sure everyone knows who is in charge and who will move you along through different parts of your event. A host can help mediate the flow of speakers and keep the conversation focused and moving. They can also facilitate the Q+A portion of your event if you choose to have one. Having an experienced host will eliminate confusion, awkward pauses, silence, or messy transitions.
Virtual events are still new, and each event you normally host in-person will present its own unique challenges when you work to recreate it in virtual form. Make sure you practice each event with everyone who will be involved so you can get a true feel for the attendee experience and iron out any wrinkles.
And remember, if you’re worried about losing the interactive part of the events you host on campus, you can still help students and families get to know one another by using things like breakout rooms. Encourage conversation and organic connection with an online tool.
Looking for more tips for creating captivating and successful virtual events? Learn how to leverage your virtual events to woo your students.
Setting Yourself Up for Success with the Right Tech
The importance of having a virtual admission and enrollment process has probably been hammered into your head at this point. But it’s still just as true as ever, and even in a post-COVID world having an efficient, streamlined process in place to cater to more families and continue to help your school thrive, no matter what is thrown at you down the road is a non-negotiable.
Investing in a student enrollment management system—from saving you loads of time to increasing your school’s enrollment—has a lot of benefits, but it’s a big decision. How do you know which CRM to choose? And how can you make sure your admissions and enrollment system has the features and customization you need to make it worth your while?
Asking some important questions and recognizing when your current system is failing you are two great ways to help you on your path to make a decision.
Once you have an enrollment management platform in place, you can rest assured that no matter what happens down the road, your office will be able to continue the admissions and enrollment process from wherever you are. Plus, the millennial families your school serves will be delighted that your admission and enrollment process is inline with the expectations companies like Amazon, Netflix, and other digital darlings have set.
How SchoolAdmin Can Help
To address the current situation in particular, you’ll want to make sure your system has everything you need for virtual admissions. Most importantly, you need school admissions software that is tailored to your school’s specific needs.
SchoolAdmin’s enrollment management platform offers you the admissions, enrollment, and tuition management tools you need to build relationships, grow enrollment, and increase retention. SchoolAdmin’s online applications, advanced email capabilities, automated communication plans, online checklists, file upload ability, online reading and review process, and virtual event calendars make it easy for you to do your job whether you’re in the office or working from home.
These features also benefit your families making admissions as streamlined and simple as possible.
Trust us, you won’t regret ditching paper forms. You won’t need to pass papers or review files between teachers and faculty, wait for documents to be mailed in, or require families to call in to register for events making it that much easier for them to complete your admission process.
Staying in Touch: Reaching Students and Families From Afar
Don’t let distance stop you from forming deep connections and relationships.
Staying in touch with your families and creating a meaningful connection with them remains essential for your success. The days of in-person tours, revisit days, shadow days, interviews, and potentially even open houses may be on hold for quite some time. With fewer opportunities to see your students in person, you’ll have to get smart and creative with the ways you keep in touch.
5 Ways to Stay in Touch Virtually
1. Social media
Have students share what they love about your school via social media. You can post pictures or videos of your school to help families see just what you have to offer, or help them get to know your teachers by doing “faculty or teacher spotlights.”
2. Student ambassadors
Recruit your ambassadors to do an Instagram or Facebook live takeover to answer questions, share more about the school, and talk to new students. They can help you build connections and make your new families feel welcome while ensuring current students and parents feel like they are an integral part of your school. Running your ambassador program virtually can enhance your admissions process.
3. Virtual Activities
Host a plethora of different kinds of online activities for your students and parents. You can host a game night, book clubs, or even create a gratitude board where everyone can participate.
4. Lead Nurturing
Lead nurturing can help you reach your students over the summer and throughout the fall by ensuring you have a set cadence in place and a plan of when and how to reach out. By planning your touchpoints, you can ensure you’re reaching out in various ways and consistently so you never lose touch.
5. Automated Communication plans
Setting up automated communication plans can help your office stay in touch with every family without a ton of effort or extra work on your end. Think of an automated communication plan as personalized lead nurturing on autopilot. Once your communication plan is in place, your families will still receive personalized interactions, you just won’t need to do everything manually. That will free you up to make a bigger impact via other methods of communication or devote yourself to other vital tasks at hand.
Keeping Your Team Strong
Keeping your team strong, connected, and focused while away from the office is a vital piece of virtual admissions. Without the right tools, leadership, and processes in place, your team will likely fall behind, become unorganized, and disconnected. None of that is desirable for your team or for the families you serve.
4 Best Practices for Remote Teams
Err on the side of over-communicating. Shorter communication cycle times are often MORE effective in building and sustaining morale and engagement, so don’t be afraid to reach out, ask for clarification, or just check in on your teammates.
2. Set clear team goals
Make sure every team member knows what is expected of them, knows what tasks to complete, and feels comfortable and able to accomplish them remotely. Remember, you may have to reset your expectations, but you can still accomplish everything you want while away from the office. Even more than just basic habits and practices, it’s vital that you are all coming together to achieve the same goals. Implementing a goal system like OKRs can help you stay on track, divide up ownership, and accomplish far more than before.
3. Be understanding and support your teammates
Offer grace to your teammates and be understanding of any distractions (like kids or pets) that are part of the “work from home” package. If you’re the leader of your team, be the first one to speak up and communicate. Set up weekly 1:1 meetings to connect with each of your team members and check in with them. Remember to set goals for yourself and share those with the team. Make sure everyone knows that it’s okay to have a bad day or struggle. Make it crystal clear that your chief concern is the well-being of your team.
4. Stick to a routine
Set a routine for your day and create set hours if at all possible. Take a lunch break and step away from your computer when 5 pm comes around. It can be hard to step away from the work when it’s so close by, but doing so can help you maintain a better work-life balance.
For ideas to keep your team in touch and tools you can use to help you while apart, check out our blog post on managing a remote team at your independent school.
It’s equally important for team members to feel comfortable, supported, and pushed even when working from home. You may need to develop a few new habits and practices.
These practices are still great ways to keep your team strong once you return to the office. And it’s never too late to change the way your team has been working throughout quarantine.
Brush Up Your Digital Marketing + Website
Marketing your school has always been important, and many of you already have digital ways of doing so. However, you may have relied heavily on your campus selling itself as your primary way of marketing your school. But with campus visits unlikely, you need to be able to successfully market your school entirely online. You have to get your name out there, and you need to reach further than you have in previous years.
The first thing you need to do is revisit your marketing plan and digital assets.
Addressing virtual aspects like your social media, website, events, content, and emails will ensure you’ve covered all of your bases and are prepared to market virtually at every stage of the process. Take a closer look at every part of your school’s brand and forward-facing assets. Make sure you’ve defined your goals and outlined key strategies you want to use in your marketing approach.
Build a Marketing Plan for your School in 6 Steps:
1. Define your goals
What do you want to accomplish? Determine how you’ll measure your performance, and the metrics you’ll monitor to determine whether efforts are successful or need to be improved. Start with SMART goals and OKRs.
2. Analyze your situation
Identify where you are now by performing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis.
3. Define your value proposition
Perhaps the most vital part of marketing your school is your value proposition. Can families easily tell what your unique value proposition is? Are you setting yourself apart with your messaging?
4. Outline key strategies
Choose which areas you want to focus on like social media, website, direct mail, events, email, and content. Use multiple channels in a cohesive and congruent way for the biggest impact.
You’ve set yourself up for go time, and it’s time to get started. Don’t get caught up in making sure everything is perfect, you can always improve and tweak your plan along the way.
6. Reflect and reassess
What worked? What didn’t go as well? Monitor your performance over time to see what to do more of, and where to tweak things.
Get 5 tips to transform the way you approach digital marketing to help more families find your school online, establish a stronger online presence, and build an instantly recognizable school brand.
Brush Up Your Website and Digital Frontdoor
Your website is particularly important in this time of digital and virtual experiences. A lot of families will visit your website and find your school online, so you need to make sure it has all of the information they need to convince them to apply. You’ll also want to check that it’s easy to find your forms and application so they can do so without any extra work or effort on their end.
Here are 5 questions you can ask about your website to make sure you’ve optimized it for the best performance:
- Is it easy to access your admissions page and information?
- Does every page include a clear CTA telling families where to go or what to do next?
- Is your value proposition clear and prominently displayed?
- Is your branding consistent on every page?
- Do you have testimonials or social proof?
You can also take a closer look at your web analytics to see which pages are gaining the most organic traffic and find specific things to change or experiment with.
Having a website that is informative, easy to navigate, and clear and concise will help you run your admissions process virtually and attract more families to your school — something every school needs in order to meet enrollment goals for the coming years.
It’s already clear that things won’t just “go back to normal” this fall. Instead, it’s time to embrace the new normal. Even if schools are able to open as usual in the coming year, it’s vital that you’re prepared for whatever situation plays out during the admissions season with a fully digital approach.
You can still have a huge impact on families and make their lives easier with a fully online admissions process. Whether it’s hosting an online event, brushing up your website, or upgrading to an enrollment management platform that can fulfill all of your needs, take the time to go through each of these steps and uncover exactly what you need to focus on to succeed.
With your dedication, hard work, and passion- anything is possible, let’s make this year a great one.
For more ways to prepare for your best admission season yet, check out our ebook, the Admissions Refresh Handbook to prepare for your best year yet.