Don’t Lose Sight of the People

By Laura Murphy posted 05-15-2017 14:26


Don’t Lose Sight of the People

Numbers, numbers, numbers! 

Sometimes it feels as if my job is all about tracking the numbers.  Retention numbers – how are we doing by grade, by division?  What about our new student retention rate?  How are we doing with our Student of Color retention rate?  What about our yield?  Again, how are we doing by grade, division, ethnicity, etc. 

When I started in Admissions in the early 1990s, I had one very basic spreadsheet that simply tracked inquiries, applications, acceptances and enrollments.  Now I have spreadsheets for just about everything imaginable, and I am constantly thinking of statistics to add. 

After all, numbers don’t lie, do they?

Numbers may not lie, but in the long run, our job should be about more than numbers.  Yes, they tell us a lot, but they do not tell us the stories.  Our job in admissions should be making connections, both in our school communities and in the communities beyond our gates.  In reality, most of us in this field are not number crunchers; we are people-people, and we want to interact with others.

A workshop with Lisa Ford, CSP, CPAE, reinvigorated my passion for the job that we do.  Thanks to her, the mantra in our office is:

Every Customer, Every Time, Every day!

To the best of our ability, we personally respond to every inquiry.  We look for connections with the families and we share a bit of ourselves in doing so.  Here are just a few ideas on how to make and keep those personal connections:

  • Personalize the responses to inquiries.  If you can find a connection with the initial inquiry, respond to it; otherwise, share something of yourself.  My standard inquiry response always includes stories of my son’s experiences in either Lower, Middle or Upper School.
  • Take copious notes and share them with your team.  Families are always impressed with how well we “remember” little things about them – the high school Dad attended, the sore back Mom had on the tour, the passion Jeremiah has for the oboe, whatever.  It shows that you care.
  • Tell stories that relate.  This is a lot easier if you have been at a school for a long time, but even if you are new, learn about the history, talk to teachers, get to know the students.  The more you can share about the culture of the school through anecdotes, the better!
  • Get to know your community, the faculty, the students, the parents and the alums.  Get to know them on a personal level, and then use them as often as you can.  They are truly your best resources when attracting new families to the school.
  • Be responsive to families.  We make every effort to reply to all phone calls and emails within 24 hours, even if it is simply to say, “I am swamped right now, but I will get back to you as soon as I can.”  Of course, be sure to do so!!

Can we take every family that wishes to come to our school?  Absolutely not, but we can make every effort to ensure that they all feel valued and heard, especially those families who are denied admission to our school.

So, keep crunching the numbers.  It is so important to understand demographics and trends, but don’t lose sight of the people.  Keep connecting and keep telling the stories.

Laura Murphy

Director of Admissions

The Out-of-Door Academy

Sarasota, FL

1 comment



09-26-2018 13:01

Yes! Thank you for reigniting my passion and reminding us of the importance of the stories alongside the numbers.