Transitioning from Ravenna to Finalsite Enrollment
At Aspen Academy, the role of managing enrollment processes and databases goes to Kate Shaw, a seasoned admissions pro with two decades of experience working with school records and registrars.
A self-described “database queen,” Shaw’s administrative journey began in development and transitioned to admissions, navigating various systems and leading her to understand the intricate requirements of an effective enrollment management system.
For a school that prides itself on being a place “where extraordinary futures begin,” Aspen Academy, an innovative PreK through 8th Grade school south of Denver, knows the importance of creating a great experience for families right from the start.
However, when Aspen adopted Ravenna to manage online applications, the system's challenges and roadblocks slowly emerged.
At a Glance
Founded in 2005, Aspen Academy in Greenwood Village, Colorado, is a leader in innovative education. The school benefits from small classes led by award-winning faculty, acclaimed academics, and the nation’s first integrated Pre-K through 8th grade leadership and entrepreneurial development program.
The Challenge: Navigating Complexities
Initially perceived as an upgrade, Ravenna struggled with slow and cumbersome report generation. Furthermore, the system’s scheduling process was inadequate for Aspen’s needs, particularly in setting up critical parent interviews.
“Ravenna was a big jump from what we were using when I originally came here, but there were a lot of challenges with reporting,” shared Shaw. “It took a long time to get numbers and reports, and the calendar was challenging for scheduling our head of school’s parent interviews.”
The inefficiencies required workarounds for scheduling and subsequent manual data entry back into their previous system. However, the most glaring issue was the limited communication tools to reach families.
“(Finalsite Enrollment) frees up time to build those relationships with the kids and faculty. To manage all that behind the scenes saves us so much time — just being able to leave the office at a normal time and not having to stay late is wonderful.”
“It was a lot of extra communication from me that was just loading up family’s inboxes,” explained Shaw. “Just getting communications out or sending something that looked nice with our logo, we couldn't do in Ravenna. When we’d have to do an active campaign and constantly update the inquiries and contacts, it felt like a lot of double work for us.”
The system's inability to send out visually appealing, branded communications forced Aspen’s staff to rely on external campaign tools, resulting in redundant work and a disjointed approach to communication.
Faced with these challenges, Aspen Academy switched to Finalsite Enrollment, opening up more opportunities for reporting and streamlining the admissions team’s communications with families.
The Solution: Switching to Finalsite Enrollment
The user-friendly and customizable features of Finalsite Enrollment marked a significant improvement over the previous system, and the platform's flexibility in tailoring forms and processes was a much-needed upgrade.
“Now I can go in and see if a teacher rec is in process, or I can cancel it and send it to someone else,” said Shaw. “From my end, I can manage the parent piece better. I can impersonate families and help them with their logins, and we couldn't do any of that in Ravenna.”
Paired with Finalsite’s content management system, Composer, Finalsite Enrollment streamlined processes for managing files, data, and events and improved Aspen’s communication strategy with branded communications.
Finalsite Enrollment’s key improvements also included:
- Enhanced Parent Interaction: The new system provided a more robust portal for managing interactions with parents. This included features like managing teacher recommendations, downloading and sharing documents, and assisting parents with technical issues.
- User-Friendly Interface: Managing files, data, and events was more straightforward thanks to the intuitive interface, which benefited Aspen’s staff AND parents.
- Customizable Features: Finalsite Enrollment provided the flexibility to tailor forms and processes better and meet Aspen’s evolving needs — a significant upgrade over a more rigid structure.
The Results: An Improved Enrollment System with Tangible Benefits
The transition to Finalsite Enrollment brought immediate and long-term benefits to Aspen Academy. The new system enabled efficient reporting, with quick and easy access to vital admissions data for school leadership to review and make decisions based on data-informed marketing and admission trends.
“There was just so much double work we had to do before,” Shaw explained. “Now, you click a button, and you can see where you're at any day. Instead of having to track that in an Excel spreadsheet, I can do a report every Monday, and it's so easy to see where we were from last year or how many inquiries or applicants we got in a week. The reporting piece is amazing, and tracking the inquiries is easy.”
With more insight into open house registrants, scheduled tours, and big-picture key performance indicators, reports are generated for the Advancement Committee and the head of school to give more transparency toward the financial health of the school and the status of inquiries and applicants.
“Finalsite Enrollment is so easy to fill out,” Shaw shared. “We have to report how many students of each gender were in each grade that started the year. And we have to report many different data points to NAIS, which makes it a lot easier, too.”
Finalsite Enrollment enabled Aspen Academy to engage in more effective strategic planning, including:
- Efficient Reporting: The new system enabled quick and easy access to vital admissions data, streamlining the reporting process and reducing the need for manual data tracking.
- Improved Event Management: Finalsite Enrollment simplified the management of school events, from scheduling and printing name tags to sending reminders.
- Better Strategic Planning: With more accessible and reliable data, Aspen could engage in more effective strategic planning, using insights to guide decisions and outreach strategies.
- Enhanced Family Engagement: With a more efficient system, staff can allocate more time to improving the tour experience for prospective families.
A tailored inquiry form with sections for students’ interests has also provided insight. “The academic interests field (on our inquiry form) helps us to see what we can focus on during the tour, what the student's interested in, or tailor our follow-up emails,” Shaw said.
“It's important for us to know what's happening in the classrooms to tell those stories. It frees up time to build those relationships with the kids and faculty. To manage all that behind the scenes saves us so much time — just being able to leave the office at a normal time and not having to stay late is wonderful.”
Shaw added that identifying key feeder schools for targeted relationship building became more straightforward. For instance, Aspen can now easily pull data on where folks are coming from within its 40 different zip codes, including where families live or how many are from out of state, and use those data points to engage other parent populations and communities.
“A big part of it is seeing where families are coming from, especially in PreK and Kindergarten. Strategically, we look at the ‘How did you hear about us?’ response every year to make sure we’re touching on new trends and schools we haven't heard of. We can pull in their pre-schools and then go out and start relationships with those schools to make sure that they know our program and refer their families to us.”
With a branded and easy-to-navigate user interface, Finalsite Enrollment is also making it simple for parents as they navigate the application and enrollment process.
“For families who have never applied to a school before, it's all in one place, and their checklist is easy to use,” Shaw explained. “There are little things families stress about that we can easily fix or re-schedule for them. It's easy just to go in and customize the dates for out-of-town families.”
“Families can see where they’re at in the process and what they still need to do,” she added.”It eases their mind, and they get notifications when things are completed too, like when a teacher rec is done, or they get confirmations on their parent conversation and student visit. It seems like all the Denver area schools are now on Finalsite Enrollment, so the familiarity makes it a lot easier for families.”
Finalsite’s training modules and Support team are there for the challenges that arise. “I know Finalsite Enrollment had a lot of great training,” Shaw added. “If I do need help, Support gets back to me quickly, which is amazing. They follow up, and they make sure that our questions get answered. With Ravenna, it was hard to get a help desk person in a timely manner.”
Shaw stressed that schools using other systems might not know what they’re missing. “I don't think they know how much help and what kind of greater products are out there,” she said. “They don't know that there's a higher tiered level that Finalsite Enrollment can provide and run everything smoother and easier for everyone.”
See for yourself how Finalsite's EMS streamlines the enrollment process for you and your families!
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