The Parent Perspective, a recent Blackbaud K–12 eBook by Chuck English, explores the impact of the parent experience on enrollment decisions at independent schools. English identifies communication, personalization, community and parent involvement, and responsiveness as key drivers of the parent experience. While these factors transcend all school departments and parent delight is the responsibility of the collective whole, it all begins with admissions where first impressions are critical.
At Blackbaud K–12, we have long recognized our role and responsibility in fostering the parent experience for our schools. The development of our education management solutions, including Blackbaud Enrollment Management SystemTM, began with research centered on parent focus groups. This emphasis helps schools deliver a red-carpet parent experience by tending to the following aspects.
1. Set the stage with accessibility and ease of use.
Good or bad, parents’ initial interactions with schools through admissions set their expectations. Most often, a parent’s first touchpoint is with the school’s website and online forms—not an actual person. Having a website and enrollment system that’s mobile-friendly from the initial inquiry form through the candidate decision gives parents flexibility and instills an early appreciation for the school.
Knowing that many parents are completing inquiry forms on their phones, evaluate the questions your school is asking to ensure the form isn’t overwhelming and too time-consuming.
2. Collect the right information to personalize the process.
While short and sweet is the goal for the inquiry form, you also want to make sure that you’re collecting the right info to personalize the application process. As one parent told English, “All of the personal approaches contributed hugely to our decision. We could tell right away it was a place where they were going to wrap my kid up, love him, and educate him.”
The candidate profile in Blackbaud Enrollment Management System is packed with details such as the completed inquiry form, interests, official notes, test scores, and recommendations, as well as registration info and notes from events, visits, and interviews. This resource provides admission officers with the information they need to personalize the experience, and being able to access it quickly is essential when parents call or stop-in unexpectedly.
3. Use preferred names.
It’s remarkable the impact that the simple courtesy of knowing someone’s name, especially if they prefer to use a nickname, has on their overall impression of being welcomed at the school. “When we walked on campus, people who represented areas of my son’s interests knew my name and were ready to talk to me,” one parent said.
While parents feel a sense of belonging when their family members’ preferred names appear in the salutations on school communications, beware of the pitfalls of flawed personalization. “They sent a thank you letter after our visit but spelled my son’s name wrong. That gave me insight into what might be a disorganized school or how they might treat my child.”
Blackbaud’s system helps maintain accuracy for personalization. The information submitted on inquiry and application forms directly populates onto the candidate records, mitigating the risk of human error.
4. Put parents in the driver’s seat.
Busy parents are most likely to work on their child’s application at night or on weekends when the admissions team typically isn’t available to help. Therefore, the more admissions tasks they can accomplish on their own, the better the experience is for everyone, and the greater their appreciation for the school.
Blackbaud Enrollment Management System delivers transparency by prioritizing the admission checklist when parents sign in, making it easy for them to see where they are in the process. What’s more, self-scheduling for interviews and tours eliminates the tedious, time-consuming emails and calls previously needed to schedule an appointment. And by displaying school events on the admissions calendar, parents can book visits when activities related to their child’s interests are taking place.
5. Communication is key.
The importance of communication to the parent experience cannot be understated. As one parent told English, “When you’re paying for something, there are definitely expectations about what’s communicated to you, the way you are made to feel, and what’s going to happen to your child. You expect a higher level of communication.”
Once again, admissions set the barometer for the anticipated school experience. Because Blackbaud Enrollment Management System relies on parents having a user record and login, candidate parents are accessible to distribution lists for admission updates and all-school newsletters. Resource Boards provide a hub of school information for parents. And automated reminders keep parents on-task throughout the application process.
6. What happens next?
After setting a high bar for the parent experience during admissions, maintaining continuity throughout the parents' journey is critical to meeting expectations. Schools fully connected with Blackbaud's K–12 solutions have a distinct advantage. Integrated enrollment and tuition contracts save parents from duplicating their registration efforts, and having them continue to use the same login and interface to access directories, calendars, and academic information helps facilitate a smooth transition into the school.
Download the free eBook, The Parent Perspective, to learn more about the value of the parent experience on enrollment, and contact us today to see how Blackbaud’s K–12 solutions support the parent experience.