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4 Takeaways from EMA’s 2022 Conference
Connor Gleason

School admission and enrollment leaders from independent schools around the country recently gathered for The Enrollment Management Association’s 2022 in-person conference in Orlando, FL. The annual, multi-day conference highlighted the emerging trends in enrollment management, advancements in admissions software, and best practices for engaging and retaining new students and families.

This year, EMA’s focus was on the collaboration and communication throughout the enrollment journey to welcome a diverse and engaged group of families. Rather, every touchpoint that exists — from nurturing the right-fit families to graduating students from your programs — is an opportunity to grow your community, advance your school, and deliver your mission.

This year’s conference called attention to:

  1. Finding new ways to build meaningful relationships with families
  2. The importance of DEI and financial aid in admissions
  3. Creating a culture of collaboration
  4. Using data in storytelling 

1. Finding new ways to build meaningful relationships with families

Admission offices strive to build stronger relationships with families, whether that’s during the information-gathering stage as parents contemplate applying, or as families return to their school communities each year. 

EMA sessions like “Building Meaningful Connections by Maximizing Your Ambassadors Programs” honed in on the methods to create or grow your student ambassador programs, while others discussed leveraging SEO best practices to ensure families find your school on page one of search results. 

And the lessons admission offices learned during the pandemic are still relevant, as demonstrated by “Reframing Regular Practices for New Family Recruitment” which focused on repurposing and transforming the work already being done by seeing all communications through the lens of recruitment. Revamping a tuition page, adding enticing CTAs to a homepage, or providing additional avenues to connect with potential families are small tweaks that can be easily levered to attract, engage, and connect with the right-fit families. 

2. The importance of DEI and financial aid in admissions

Dr. Rodney Glasgow, head of school at Sandy Spring Friends School in Maryland, delivered a keynote presentation focused on approaching admissions and enrollment through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially as schools and educators partner with and educate parents during the admissions journey. 

Having recently launched an equity and access task force, Puget Sound Independent Schools (PSIS) recapped their experiences and the best practices for a more equitable and accessible admissions process for families considering independent schools.

Berkshire School in MA and The Thacher School in CA represented both coasts as they presented the history, progression, and goals for supplemental financial aid programs and how each school provides the most equitable experience possible for students on tuition assistance.

screenshot of Wesminsters School DEI initiatives

Among many other presentations, The Westminster Schools in Georgia, with more than a third of its students and twenty percent of its faculty being people of color, focused on diversity outreach programs as part of the admissions process and the importance of providing underrepresented students and families with information about campus communities, DEI initiatives, and the enrollment process at schools. 

3. Creating a culture of collaboration

One of the biggest takeaways from EMA this year was the importance of creating better working partnerships between admission and marketing offices. While often siloed and operating independently (despite shared enrollment goals) these two offices can only benefit by working more collaboratively to create stronger communications and touchpoints with prospective families, sharing key admissions and marketing data, and aligning efforts to support enrollment.

Screenshot of Why Oak Knoll

Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child, a top Catholic school in New Jersey, did just that with its presentation “Why Admissions and Marketing Partnerships are No Longer Optional.” With downloadable content, video, matriculation stats, and ways to plan a campus visit, a quick look at the school’s admission pages reveals how the collaboration between marketing and admissions departments is providing valuable inbound content and engaging interested families. And as a co-ed PreK-6 school that transitions to an all-girls 7-12 school, retention and re-enrollment are made all that much easier with support through its enrollment management system.

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In addition, Boston's associate superintendent of enrollment management and marketing for Catholic schools shared details about its partnerships with EMA to support recruitment and retention efforts for over one hundred schools. "During Together We'll Go Farther: Exploring Paths to High Impact Partnerships" shared what was done to identify the market trends and to inform stronger enrollment strategies. 

4. Using data in storytelling

Utilizing key admission and enrollment data through its enrollment management system, SchoolAdmin, and its website’s admissions center, Minnehaha Academy was able to identify and close loopholes in its admission funnel to create a more streamlined enrollment process for families. Director of Enrollment Michelle Ulland, shared her story and the collaboration with the marketing team that ultimately measured success, saved time, and developed meaningful and strategic conversations that convert.

Minnehaha Admissions Center

While some presentations like “More Than Click Through Rates: How Schools Can Gauge Metrics for Each Stage of the Enrollment Funnel,” broke down the critical metrics to gauge success at each stage of the family’s journey, others stressed that the right data can also be interpreted to add personalized and meaningful messaging through a school’s enrollment system.

Key takeaway

EMA's enrollment management conference has always provided a chance for admission and enrollment professionals to gather and connect with colleagues. While this year's professional development event was another opportunity to celebrate and share the latest best practices and important initiatives with one another, the conference placed a focus on the inclusion of others; by recognizing the importance of DEI initiatives in admissions, creating better collaboration, and creating strong, more genuine connections with families to support the enrollment goals of schools. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.


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