|Category||Christian School Education|
|Title||The Many Hats of the Admissions Director|
|Preview||People relate to stories, so gather a collection of stories from your staff that you can use to help a prospective family picture themselves and their children at your school.|
I hope that your school's admissions director has an excellent milliner and a large closet-we wear so many hats in our profession! Three of those hats seem especially necessary: those of the storyteller, the concierge, and the gatekeeper.
Because parents know their children better than you ever will, listen and learn what they need from a school before you don your storyteller hat. Once you have learned what brought a family through your door, you are ready to tell them how your staff and faculty can benefit their child in very individualized ways.
People relate to stories, so gather a collection of stories from your staff that you can use to help a prospective family picture themselves and their children at your school. Use examples that highlight the factors your school alone can provide. For example, tell how a student was given the opportunity to plan and execute a mission trip, or how students are prepared and able to share their faith with a person holding a different worldview. Share examples of how coaches win hearts and souls as they lead teams to championships. Provide opportunities for your students and current parents to share what makes them grateful for the school.
One of your best resources is your current parent body. Develop a core group of parents who can help give tours and are willing to tell others in their circles of influence about your school. Meet with focus groups of current parents to learn what sets your school apart and why they chose your school. Keep your core group informed by sending them information about the great things happening across all grade levels. Help parents and staff develop a three-minute speech they can share with others while standing in line at the grocery store or sitting at a student competition. Stories sell, so adorn your storytelling hat with as many stories as you can.
The director of admissions is often the first person to meet a prospective family, so be sure to have your concierge hat close at hand. A good concierge is well-acquainted with every area of his or her school. Memorize and meditate on your mission statement and spend time observing how it manifests itself in academics, athletics, fine arts, the selection of teachers and staff, and a student's experiences at your school. If your school does not have a clear mission statement, stop immediately and gather the leaders together to formulate one. Then write a statement for admissions using the verbs from the school mission statement. Having that will lead you to develop clear processes and policies.
With your concierge hat properly positioned, you are ready to meet your customer. When introducing yourself to a new family, listen carefully. If you have difficulty with names and ages or grades, develop a simple form for parents to complete so that you have the information close at hand. If you are giving a tour, use the interests of the student to determine where you begin. Whenever possible, make prior arrangements for the leader of that area-whether the coach, the fine arts director, or the Bible teacher-to meet the family. Show respect to those leaders by listening and learning as they share their passions. Have a follow-up plan for after the visit. Begin with a personal, handwritten note, followed by additional information about an area of interest to the student. Have a core group of current parents who are willing to give the family a call to answer questions parent-to-parent.
When hosting a prospective parent event, you may want to embellish your concierge hat with even more personal touches. For schools in the United States, that often means having individual nametags and personalized packets designed for families who will be attending. Spend extra time on your seating so that each visiting family is seated with a current parent who has a child in the same grade and a staff member from that division. Have your current students there to greet and direct parents. Also, use your current parents to contact the family before the event to welcome them, then follow up with a note after the event.
"Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it." -Proverbs 3:27 (NASB)
"You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike." - Deuteronomy 1:17(NASB)
Regardless of the circumstances that connect you with a prospective family or student, settle on one or two principles that will be your rudder. The number one principle is to design policies and processes that can be applied to every applicant without exception. Whether the student is a stranger or your own child, take each one through the same process. Exceptions and shortcuts distract you from the main goal, which is to find families and students whose needs you can meet and who are mission-appropriate for your school.
As you meet families, keep in mind they are considering entering a partnership with you that involves their most precious resources: their children and their money! Every parent loves his or her child and wants what is best for that child. That gives you freedom to help determine whether your school is the best place for each applicant. Therefore, you can be honest and helpful to parents as they make their decisions. Good applicants for whom you can provide the best education are the easy ones. However, when you have a student who is not a good fit, communicate that in a way that demonstrates you are focusing on that child's best interests. If you must recommend parents seek a different placement for their child, be prepared to offer suggestions for alternative placements. As gatekeeper, you have an excellent opportunity to make every student feel respected and important so that every family leaves your campus knowing they were heard, valued, and helped through this important decision.
Depending on the size of your school, you may wear even more hats. However, these three-concierge, storyteller, and gatekeeper-will be essential to your role. Being an interesting and intuitive storyteller will keep you relevant and engaging. As you represent your school, you want to be a gracious concierge, always focused on the customer's needs and desires. Knowing the mission and vision of your school will help you carry out the role of gatekeeper in a way that is winsome to others and honoring to Christ. Hats off to you and the important role you play at your school!
Sharron Shaw is serving in her eighteenth year as senior director of admissions at Prestonwood Christian Academy (Plano, Texas). She is a certified educational diagnostician with a masters in special education.
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