At Elgin, it’s as safe to fail as it is to flourish.
With more than 200 students, the preschool through grade 12 independent school in Illinois takes pride in being a supportive community with high academic standards and expectations for involvement — important values that Bonita Goist was first introduced to as a parent of an Elgin student.
“I remember driving up and having to drop off all the enrollment forms because you couldn't do it on the computer back then,” Bonita recalled. Years later, as Elgin Academy's Director of Admissions and Marketing, Goist is now charged with carrying the school’s legacy of a differentiated learning experience forward — but not the dated enrollment experience that once came with it.
To meet the rising expectations of families and to help streamline the admissions and enrollment process, the Elgin admissions and marketing teams began searching for another enrollment solution.
The Challenge | The Need for Detailed Enrollment Reporting
Elgin Academy had been using OpenApply for their online admission and enrollment software, but after implementing the system, there were still a number of features Elgin felt were missing.
“It had the option to create reports,” said Tanya Moore, Elgin Academy’s Web Content Manager, “but the reports were not robust enough, nor were they easy for us to configure and pull the information that we needed.”
The Elgin team needed a detailed reporting system to update its board each month, and for a school that’s more than 180 years old, it was time to move to a system that modernized the enrollment process.
At a Glance
Founded in 1839, Elgin Academy is a preschool – grade 12 independent school located in Elgin, Illinois. Elgin Academy offers a differentiated student experience, uniquely positioned to help every child realize and fulfill their potential and prepare them to make a positive impact on the world.
“We needed something that would easily produce the enrollment statistics and create reports at regular intervals,” Moore said, adding that previously, those numbers were kept separately across spreadsheets or even on pieces of paper.
“We had enough databases and systems, and none of them played nicely with each other,” said Goist. “Our main goal was to have a system that we could integrate into something we already knew we liked and go from there.”
“We were immediately drawn to Finalsite Enrollment because we've had such good luck with Finalsite.” As a current user of Finalsite’s content management system, Composer, Finalsite’s enrollment management system was a clear choice.
The Solution | One Streamlined System
After an extensive marketing campaign, there’s been an increased interest in Elgin. Inquiries are up 40 percent, new student enrollment is up 20 percent, and tours and shadow visits continue to increase each month.
To manage that wave and engage prospects with content downloads or requests for more information, Elgin uses a simple, branded interest form embedded right into their Finalsite website.
Once a family's information is collected, the team enters contacts into a drip marketing campaign through the content management system, Composer, and leverages the combined power of the two systems. Now they can begin to engage families more strategically.
“Before Finalsite Enrollment, when we did a drip marketing campaign, there was a lot of manually changing groups or constituents to get families through the application stages,” Moore explained, adding that there had always been questions about “Did this person fill out an inquiry or have they moved on? Have they filled out an application? Do I have to remove them from this group?”
“Now with the connected systems,” Moore explained, “it adjusts when their role changes in Finalsite Enrollment, and we don't have to think about it.”
“Once they're in the system as a prospect,” Moore added, “they'll be driven to fill out the inquiry form and apply. When families fill out an inquiry, it sends a thank you confirmation and offers a tour — before I had to do all of that manually.”
“I think Tanya and I work better together and more efficiently because everything is connected,” Goist said, adding that they can easily put families into targeted lists when they want to run a marketing campaign.
Once families have inquired, they’re sent enrollment communications via Finalsite Enrollment to track their progress through the enrollment funnel. This process has not only saved Elgin substantial time but it’s also developed better relations with prospective families, too. With Finalsite Enrollment, automatic responses from admissions can be personalized based on a contact’s preferences, interests, and stage in the funnel.
“I have a ton more inquiries coming in than we've ever had,” Goist said. “Our team now has a record of what we've done, and we can go back immediately and see where they’re engaging. Families submit their transcripts, teacher recommendations, and all their other application materials through Finalsite Enrollment — I'm not uploading or scanning any of those documents.”
Using Finalsite Enrollment, families are delivered automated and personalized communications to nurture them until they convert and enroll at Elgin.
“Once they've enrolled, we have a drip campaign set up that's for new parents that walks them through everything they need to do — what forms to submit, their login for the portal, how they access grades and all the medical forms. Finalsite Enrollment gives me an alert, and I take care of it.”
“If our head of school wants to know what the numbers are today ... we run the report and can find just about any metric. Re-enrollment was a dream, and I'm looking forward to that for the first time ever.”
DIR. OF ADMISSIONS & MARKETING
Finalsite Enrollment also allows the Elgin team to offer campus tours through automated calendar scheduling. Now Goist can just check her calendar and see if a family is coming to campus for a tour, rather than manually setting up each family tour.
“That was huge because we would get the bulk of our new students in September and August when we're swamped trying to do everything else,” Goist added. “That's been fabulous. I don't even think about it. Once I enroll them, I move on to the next person. Finalsite Enrollment gives me more time to personally follow up with families.”
And for a small team, that makes a big difference. Goist and Moore can now pivot and assist the development team as needed, work on perfecting their messaging for the drip campaigns, or focus on converting families who have applied.
“It’s been nice to have the time to focus more on the proactive family follow-ups,” Moore added.
As an administrator, Goist is familiar with last-minute requests for updated enrollment information. With Finalsite Enrollment’s detailed analytics, those reports are ready to go at a moment’s notice.
“I’ve already set up reports in Finalsite Enrollment, so I just hit the button, and there it goes. Being able to report on the fly has been so helpful and freed up time. With OpenApply, it was a laborious process, and it didn't always give us what we wanted,” Bonita explained, adding that they’d often have to reach out to their tech support and have to wait for them to do the report.
“I'm not particularly tech-savvy,” Bonita admitted, “but with Finalsite Enrollment, I'm just like, ‘oh, I got this.’ Now I can confidently say, ‘yes, I can have that report to you.’”
Tuition and billing made simple
Finalsite Enrollment’s tuition and billing module has made enrollment even easier for current families and has been a lifesaver for the Elgin team, too. Less time is spent chasing down contracts and constantly following up with families.
“Re-enrollment was a dream last year compared to what it's been in the past because it was all automated,” Goist admits. “We used to send PDFs to every family individually. It would take our team a week, and we always hoped the right forms were going to the right families.”
“Now I just get a notice when it's signed, and it's so simple,” Goist said. “With tuition, as far as working with the billing department, it's been wonderful because we used to have to meet once a week and review what was going on. Now, we’re able to send reminders, and if a parent calls or we have a question about what a family owes, we can see the status of any tuition payment at any given time.”
With current and year-over-year data, Finalsite Enrollment gave accurate insight into Elgin’s enrollment health for the school year and projected admission season — a feature that impressed school leadership, too.
“If our head of school wants to know what the numbers are today — boom — we run the report and can find just about any metric. Re-enrollment was a dream, and I'm looking forward to that for the first time ever.”
Results | Accuracy and Time Saved
Despite a small team, the Elgin team is completing the work of many — something that hadn’t been so easy in the past.
“When my daughter went to school here, we used to fill out forms with paper and pen, and it hasn't been that long since she was here,” Bonita laughed.
“From a personal aspect, as an employee here, that process is much smoother. The families see it too. They think, ‘wow, this 183-year-old school is embracing 21st-century technology.”’
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