Independent School Admissions: Shepherding Your Flock

Posted on June 21, 2015

In early July, I will have the privilege of sharing some of Proctor Academy’s marketing and communication story with attendees at Blackbaud’s K-12 User conference in Boston. This post will give a quick preview of that presentation. In short, the lesson learned this year is that sometimes you need to shepherd your flock more than you think.


The independent school admission process is incredibly competitive as the number the total addressable market continues to shrink, especially when you look solely at domestic applications. While some schools will never struggle to find qualified applicants, at Proctor, we are simply not one of the few schools whose name brand alone draws thousands of applications a year. Don’t get me wrong, our brand is strong. We have a niche’ and it is one we must continue to solidify as we move forward. We just need to help each of our inquiries better understand who we are as a school and whether or not they are a good fit for our educational model. Our inquiries need to be actively guided toward application, and eventually enrollment.

Traditionally, our admissions cycle looked something like this:

  1. Family hears about school and calls the Admission office where initial questions are answered and family is encouraged to inquire online.
  2. Admission team waits for a call from family to set up a visit.
  3. Family visits and interviews.
  4. Admission team waits for application to roll in by February 1.
  5. Admission team lets family know of decision on March 10.
  6. Admission and communication team scrambles to bombard family with ‘useful’ content prior to Revisit Days in early April.
  7. Admission team hopes and prays for strong yield from Revisit Days and begins. shaping school as enrollment contracts come in the door.
  8. Business Office reminds Admissions of financial aid restrictions and revenue numbers they need to hit.
  9. Admission team continues to admit lesser qualified, full-pay students to meet revenue numbers.
  10. School year begins and repeat cycle.

Does this sound familiar? It was all too familiar to us, and we thought to ourselves: there must be a better way! Last July we pressed pause on this workflow and poked as many holes in it as possible. We asked ourselves, how does a shepherd guide this flock of sheep? Does he give them instructions to walk to the field to graze and wait for his directions to be followed? Or does he gently, actively work his flock of sheep so they efficiently and effectively reach their destination without any being lost along the way?

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