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Riordan students on the field

Archbishop Riordan High School

For more than 70 years, Archbishop Riordan High School had prepared the exceptional young men of San Francisco with an educational experience full of leadership and lifelong success in the Marianist tradition.

Since opening its doors to a co-ed model in the 2020-21 school year, the school has entered an exciting new chapter of its history, welcoming students from all backgrounds and corners of the world to its values of faith, community, inclusivity, and service.

“San Francisco is a unique market in terms of the percentage of students who attend Catholic school,” shared Danny Curtin, Archbishop Riordan High School’s director of admissions & strategic initiatives.

Catholic school enrollment is experiencing somewhat of a rebound after years of decline — a nationwide trend that has extended to the Bay Area. Earlier this year, the National Catholic Educational Association reported enrollment has increased at Catholic schools by 62,000 students nationwide, and according to some reports, that's the first increase in twenty years and the largest increase in at least five decades.

That percentage increase, however, was putting Riordan’s enrollment process to the test. 

“We were an analytics-driven department for sure,” Curtin said. “But we just didn't have access to information that was easily digestible.”

At a Glance

Archbishop Riordan High School is a diocesan, co-ed Catholic high school established by the Society of Mary in San Francisco, California. As part of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, Riordan instills its young men and women with the Catholic Marianist values of faith, community, inclusivity, service, and justice through its rigorous college preparatory curriculum, house system, and co-curricular activities.

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The Challenge — Who’s inquiring, why, and when?

While processing hundreds of applications from a variety of different feeder schools in the competitive San Francisco area, Riordan’s previous admissions system had created gaps in the knowledge of its applicant pool.

Since the switch to a co-ed learning environment, a large number of curious families began to inquire and express interest — a good problem to have if you have the right tools in place. “We had all this volume and all this data, but what do we do with it?” Curtin asked. “How do we know what's happening in our population at any given time? We didn't have those answers.”

Additionally, Curtin and his team were facing the additional challenges of tracking the prospective students and families throughout the funnel as they researched Riordan: Which families are officially inquiring, who’s just expressing interest, and who is on campus attending their camps? The explanations were challenging to find … “We just couldn't get any of that information,” Curtin said. “It was all manual processes downloaded at any given time.”

Understandably, juggling Excel spreadsheets, manual uploads, and static data was becoming too taxing for the admissions department. “It just got exhausting,” admitted Curtin. “It's impossible to have good, accurate data that way.”

The Solution — A better way to collect and analyze enrollment data

Seeking a solution, Curtin and Riordan selected Finalsite Enrollment, a strategic enrollment management system, to create efficient processes, harness the power of its admission data, and fast-track the enrollment process for families.

Through Finalsite Enrollment, Riordan is able to provide prospective families with a seamless enrollment journey and paired with Finalsite’s content management system, Composer, Riordan’s online experience tells its story while sharing the value and mission of its exceptional education. When prospective families are ready to take the next steps, SchoolAdmin is there with simple, branded, and mobile-friendly forms, embedded within the site and fully integrated with the student information system.

“Switching over to Finalsite Enrollment has made a world of difference for us,” Curtin shared. Gone are the days of spreadsheets, conflicting uploads, and duplicative administrative processes. No more questions about which families inquired, why, when, and how. No more digging for clues—the answers are font and center on the admin dashboard.

Supplied with knowledge about prospective family’s previous schools, gender and household breakdowns, zip codes, student interests, and more, Riordan has empowered its admissions office to derive strategic insight into students’ passions and family demographics, allowing for highly-personalized and automated communications with families.

“The time savings is huge,” he said, adding that the admissions team is now able to get back to what truly matters — building relationships with families. “I feel like my department, even though we have a higher number of applications, spends less time dealing with applications.”

“There are more opportunities for personal one-on-one conversations and also some high-level strategic thinking,” Curtin said. “When you're so caught up in the weeds, you forget that you're in a very competitive high school market. I was stuck being a problem-solver and trying to help my team make the application process easy for families and ensure we're not losing families who are trying to apply. Now I get to be a director. I get to really do my job and recruit.”

“Having the process be personalized as much as possible is very, very important to us,” Curtin shared. “I think that's what our differentiator is as a school — I got to know a student coming in, and she's a volleyball player. I was able to ask, ‘how's volleyball season going?’ It makes a difference.”

Curtin and his team are now able to dive into the data, see the growth, and review if they’re on track or if they’re behind and where they can strategically market. “Finalsite Enrollment was able to shine a light on where our inquiries come from,” Curtin said. “We’re filling in the gaps and maximizing the newer markets— we're seeing that for the first time right now because we have the data. Just having that constant feedback really made life a lot easier for us with our applications, and it helps solidify the mission-fit families. I think that's why we saw an increase in total applications.”

The Result — Data on-demand to drive a successful enrollment strategy

Curtin is now able to quickly pull data on stats like the number of girls interested in the resource specialist program or how many boys want to play football, and having those data points at any given time has made an impression on Riordan’s leadership team.

Riordan robotics

“Being able to pull information and give it to the board at any given time was really important,” added Curtin, who is now looking at the number of applications completed and comparing yield as the two big markers for success. “We saw a huge spike in applications, and then we saw our yield go up a few percentages, which for us is a tremendous accomplishment.”

“Our SIS director loves the accuracy of the data, too, because we're using PowerSchool,” Curtin mentioned. “Every department meeting, he's like, ‘this the best thing in the world.’”

Since implementing the system, it’s even assisted with retention and re-enrollment efforts, critical bottlenecks in the enrollment journey. The admissions team can now develop attrition watch lists based on historical demographic and testing data gathered during initial inquiries applications, which gives Riordan’s retention committee a strategic advantage as students enter as freshmen. 

Re-enrollment, which historically had been an issue at Riordan (as it’s been at every school), has seen a higher percentage. Workflows that assist with the re-enrollment process helped reduce friction, making re-enrollment that much easier for office members and returning families.

As more families turn their attention to Riordan, Curtin and his team are ready to welcome more inquiries and applications. “Finalsite Enrollment created a simplicity to what can be a very complex process,” Curtin said. “We’ve seen applications going up, and Finalsite Enrollment helped our funnel through its ease of use, the branding, and the functionality — it helped with all of our admission success and we really appreciate how it gave us exactly what we wanted.”

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