The Traditional Admission Funnel is Broken – Introducing The Enrollment Rings

By Brendan Schneider posted 01-06-2015 01:01 PM


In my opinion the traditional admission funnel is broken.

I believe this for two reasons:

1. The Rise in Ghost Inquiries

Ghost inquiries are those inquiries where the first point of contact with the prospective family is when they submit their application. The implications of ghost inquiries are huge.

Sure it was great that you received the application but what about all those families that researched your school  and decided not to apply. The family has made a decision about your school without you having a voice in the conversation. I often wonder how many families have considered Sewickley Academy but never completed an inquiry form.

Let that sink in for a moment.

The implications are huge.

The traditional funnel model where a family would express interest in your school by calling the admission office with the purpose of receiving your admission packet are over. When the family made their inquiry they were in essence giving you permission to market to them about your school. Those days are over!

The new model, as suggested by the ghost inquiry, is that families are doing their research about your school using Google, review sites like Great Schools, viewing your school’s social media channels, and talking to families and friends about their individual opinions.

When a family completes an inquiry form now they have already made their decision that they are interested in your school.

Are you thinking about your marketing and admission processes in this new light?

2. The Funnel Signifies an End to the Process

I often walk around the office and say that it’s easier to re-enroll a student than it is to enroll a student. Where is re-enrollment represented in the traditional admission funnel?

It’s not!

Another reason that I think the traditional admission funnel is dead is that the point of the funnel signifies an end – that once a student is enrolled their journey is complete. I think that their journey is only beginning with your school.

There has been a change toward this line of thinking in recent years as evidenced in the advancement model at schools as well as admission directors assuming the title of Director of Enrollment. Schools have increasingly spent more time strategically thinking about retention and my school even has a committee where we discuss retention beginning in the early winter of the school year.

What replaces the funnel?

This is a great question and one that I’ve been struggling with for sometime. While I’m honestly not sure what form the new funnel should take I have recently settled on the The Enrollment Rings.

Here is the general concept – a student moves from one ring to the next based upon their level of attraction or commitment to the school. The goal of the school is to move a child into the ring in the middle which signifies an Evangelist for the school.

Here are the Rings:

Ring 1: Awareness (of your school)
Ring 2: Interest (in your school)
Ring 3: Application (to your school)
Ring 4: Enrollment
Ring 5: Re-enrollment
Ring 6: Alumni
Ring 7: Evangelist

The Enrollment Rings help to address the two weaknesses above of the traditional admission funnel: 1. A school cannot simply focus upon Ring 2: Interest (or Inquiry) any more, they must also focus on raising awareness of your school for mission appropriate families, 2. The Enrollment Rings have no end, as the funnel does, once a family reaches Ring 7: Evangelist a school will have to work hard in order to keep the family in Ring 7. There is never an end, or finish line – schools must continue to cultivate individual families to keep them in the Evangelist ring.

Reminder: If you also believe the traditional admission funnel is dead do you agree with the Enrollment Rings or do you believe something else has taken the funnel’s place? Please share your thoughts below.

About Brendan Schneider

Brendan J. Schneider is the Director of Admission and Financial Aid at Sewickley Academy. He is one of the leaders in the field for teaching on and knowledge about inbound marketing for schools. He presents and consults on inbound marketing, branding, marketing technology, and social media at the regional and national levels. With his workshops, the blog, and over 40,000 tweets of insight over the last four years, he continues to advance the abilities of the independent school admission, communication and marketing professional.

Brendan is also a Board of Director for the Association of Independent School Admission Professionals.

Find him on Google+. Subscribe to his blog and receive his Social Media System for Schools ebook for FREE. Download the eBook now!




07-22-2015 04:30 PM

Hi Judy,
Thanks for taking the time to comment and it's a good question.
I'm not really sure what NAIS's viewpoint is on the funnel vs. the rings. However, I would still recommend keeping track of inquiries, applications, visits, etc... BUT ADD things like attrition (or retention) and other metrics that can signify the health of the school's stewardship program.
I would also encourage people to think of the enrollment rings as a lens at which to look at recruitment, enrollment, retention, and then other alumni metrics.
Hope that makes sense. Let me know.

07-21-2015 06:45 PM

What is NAIS's viewpoint about the funnel vs. the rings? They would still have us tally up numbers of inquiries, applications, etc. Are schools no longer counting numbers of inquiries--the point at which the traditional funnel began?