In today’s highly competitive educational landscape, schools face numerous challenges to attract and retain students. This is where the vital roles of marketing and admissions staff come into play. Far beyond simply filling seats, these dedicated professionals play a crucial role in shaping the reputation, growth, and overall success of educational institutions.
As a parent who has been through the admissions process, the customer experience can vary enormously in each school visited. Some schools have adopted a gold-standard approach, commonly found in well regarded consumer brands such as airlines and prestige car garages. Others rely more on reputation and alumni connections and a less sales-orientated approach. An admissions team can make or break a school at any point in the application process and beyond. Therefore, it is very surprising that having spoken to many marketing and admissions professionals over the last 18 months, there has been a common theme – a lack of praise and appreciation that the role is integral to the success of the school. MTM Consulting’s Confidence Index 2023 report confirmed this, with 81% of their responses from Marketing, Admissions and Communications professionals in agreement.
The admissions role is not an easy role by any means and somewhat thankless – they have to wear many hats at the same time, including sales, creative marketeer, spokesperson for the school, a listener, an analytical thinker, as well as a counsellor and advisor to parents. The pressure they face can have a direct impact on the number of pupils on roll.
As the resident sales force, they are responsible for creating and maintaining a positive image of the school. Through strategic marketing initiatives, they highlight the institution’s unique qualities, academic successes, extracurricular activities, and achievements. By effectively communicating these attributes to prospective students and parents, they help build a positive perception and enhance the school’s brand identity, ultimately, the aim is to pique the interest of potential families and encourage them to explore the school further.
With an ever increasingly competitive landscape for attracting pupils, marketing and admissions professionals must always be able to think at least one step ahead of the competition, have a strategic mindset, create plans and processes to ensure that conversions are made and that they sustain pupils on roll, as well as being an ambassador for the school.
The success of these teams depends significantly on the interactions and discussions that prospective families have with academic staff, but there is much more work to do in this area to ensure a joined up and unified approach. According to the findings of the Confidence Index 2023 report, the majority loved working within the school environment but “40% felt that they did not have a good work-life balance or felt supported by teaching staff.”
Whilst I don’t have any hard evidence, I question how many have regular “sit downs” with Head of Departments to discuss their strategic plans, such as sports development initiatives or the Arts, and further to this, does the school have a growth plan?
Fundamentally it shouldn’t be forgotten that Admissions is one of the most important roles in a school – without a capable Admissions team, there would be no pupils, and without the pupils, there is no need for teachers or schools. Having been in recruitment for over 27 years, I completely appreciate the emotional rollercoaster that is sales and how challenging the landscape can be sometimes.
Let’s futureproof the industry by recognising all the Admissions and Marketing professionals out there and what an important role they have within a school!
Schools Leadership is a specialist brand within the MRG Global group, supporting schools with their non-academic leadership appointments.
For more information about Schools Leadership contact Melanie Pye.
Written by Melanie Pye, Associate Director of Schools Leadership, July 2023.