If we are to look for a common thread among the articles in this edition of the magazine, it is very simple: if we want to make a lasting impression on the families we meet, we can no longer use the “one size fits all” approach.
In rethinking admissions, cultural aspects cannot be disregarded. In fact, paying attention to these details will show families you truly care and are interested in who they are. Here are a few tips about the way you can bring this detail into your work:
1. Make sure you know something about the family you are meeting
How disturbing is it to spend over 30 minutes completing a form and see that the person in front of you has no idea who you are? For the admission professional today, it is a must to welcome families having as much knowledge as possible about them. Make that sure you ask their company/relocation agent for any details they can provide or that you read the completed application/inquiry form before they arrive.
2. Read/Find out details about the various cultural norms
Spend time reading on or talking to current families about cultural aspects. It is always very useful to know as much as possible about different gestures’ meanings, intimate space perceptions or stereotypes. This will help avoid embarrassing or strange situations when you interact with the family.
3. Know and be prepared to talk about areas of interest to each culture…
If you speak with experienced admissions professionals, they will tell you that, depending on their culture, families will focus on certain aspects more than on others. Whether it is discounts, academic scores, activities and creativity, it is useful to know what is the area that you need to concentrate on during the meeting.
4. … but don’t judge and use stereotypes
While all the above is helpful and true, stay away from judgment and from labeling people before you meet them. The key is that you are aware of cultural dos and don’ts but that you keep an open mind and really look at the people in front of you as individuals.
While we may think that we are being extra-helpful by bringing along a translator, make sure you discuss this aspect with the family you are about to meet, or at least inform them ahead of time. It may be insulting as the family considers they speak English quite well and they cannot understand the need for a translator. Also, make sure you vet your translators well – it is quite embarrassing to bring someone along to help when they don’t speak the language well.
6. Share the culture of the country you are in
It is true that families visit primarily to find out information about the school and admissions process but they are also looking for information about the country they are going to move into. Whether you are a local or not make sure you have information for them, resources, catalogs, maps, etc.
7. Use every meeting as an opportunity for learning
Pay attention – this is always the best advice. If you pay attention during your meetings you will be able to gather information to help you in all of the above.
8. Match families
Know your helpful families, the ones who can share their information and time with new families of the same nationality. Reach out to them each time you meet a new family that is really struggling. Knowing your families well will help make fruitful connections and many times represents the difference between a yes or a no when prospective parents make their choice of schools.
9. Pay attention to the way your office is designed/photos on the wall and messages
The admissions office is the first room in the school that a prospective family will spend time in. Look closely at the office design and at the photos and messages that can be seen by your visitors. Make sure none of these messages are offensive or racist. Your personal opinions and views do not matter when you are in that office – that is a safe space you are creating for all families and it is representative of the school not of yourself.
10. Be internationally minded
People are different. We all are born and live in different families, are raised with different principles and frames of mind. International schools are unique environments where we all aim to grow and help develop internationally minded citizens. It would be extremely hard to work and be successful in a place like this if you are not internationally minded yourself. Remember: others, with their differences may also be right. Embrace difference, learn from it and see the beauty of the world in its variety.