The first and most obvious reason for schools to have their Admissions Directors as part of the leadership team is the fact that they are the ones who generate the most revenue and in many international schools they are the only department who generates any revenue.

But that is too easy of an answer; it is more than this. I understand that there are many ways to set up a leadership team and run a school and that many different styles can be successful. But, I also think that with the changes in the competitive landscape that international schools are facing today, trying to run a school without your Admissions Director as part of the leadership team is a bit like trying to steer a ship without a navigation system. Sure, the Head of School can just make decisions and move things along slowly and perhaps, with a few detours, the school might eventually get to where they are going but those detours cost time and money.

The primary role of an Admissions Director is to get mission appropriate students in the school’s seats. Depending on the size of the school, the Admissions Directors, directly or through a member of their staff, guides families through the admissions process. They meet with the prospective families, explain the mission, programs and benefits of their schools and match appropriate families to the school. Through the admissions process we initiate a very important relationship: the one between the school and families.

Admissions Directors become the family’s first advocates at the school and the school’s first connection to the family. This relationship often continues past a student’s first day at school, many families return to the admissions office to share how things are going with their children and good Admissions Directors remember to ask families about the children. We realize, perhaps more than anyone else, that word of mouth marketing is the best way to keep prospective families knocking on our doors. In a way, this part of the job is like the helm, it turns the ship and can keep it on course but it cannot help figure out which way to go. This part of the job alone is also not necessarily what earns you a seat at the leadership table.

Luckily for us, we are much more than glorified concierges. Admissions Directors are the school’s eyes and ears in the marketplace. Heads of School and other members of the leadership team need to remember that not all prospective families are converted and, it is just important to understand why they went somewhere else as it is to understand what it was that made a family choose their school. It is Admissions Directors who send the emails, ask the questions and collect information so these questions can have an answer. This is especially relevant as the number of international schools is rising on an annual basis. Parents have more choices than ever, so when planning the courses for next year, it would be best if principals knew that students have chosen other schools because of certain classes or courses their school did not offer. There are reports, which Admissions Directors can submit, and presentations, which can be made, but this can sometimes lead to different audiences working in silos without necessarily seeing how things are connected or the big picture. It is a bit like that story where the 10 blind men describe what they feel without realizing that they are all touching different parts of an elephant. Without this data, which is an essential part of the navigation system, being discussed with all decision-makers in the same room at the same time, schools run the risk of not making the right decision at the right time and running adrift of the destination.

Not only is it imperative for Admissions Directors to share data to plot the course, they also need to be sure to gather information as well. Prospective families ask us many questions as they tour the school. As much as we are trying to make sure that the family is mission appropriate, they are doing the same thing by making sure that our school is a good fit for them. It is the job of admissions to support parents to see themselves in the future at school, as characters in its story if you will, but that can only happen when admissions see themselves as main characters as well. In order for admissions to truly represent schools, these professionals have to know what led to the decisions the leadership team is making and direction the school is taking. When Admissions Directors are involved in strategic planning and supporting schools to find their place in the marketplace, our conversations with families are more effective. If Admissions Directors sit at the Leadership Table when the decision is made to bring in consultants to work on writing instead of mathematics or holding off on expansion for another year, they are in a much better place to defend these decisions. This also strengthens their understanding of the school’s mission, which then in turn assists in recruiting mission appropriate students, thus keeping the ship on course.

Much like the job of a sailing master on a ship, Admissions Directors help their Heads of Schools navigate the open seas and as more and more ships appear on the waters they also help their schools to find their unique route.

About Saigon South International School

Saigon South International School is committed to the intellectual and personal development of each student in preparation for a purposeful life as a global citizen. Our Core Values play a vital role in each student’s daily life. Unlike a uniform which can be taken off at the end of the day, the Core Values are attributes which will remain with the students for the rest of their lives, they are the foundation of their educational experience here at school. SSIS is a not for profit school set on a beautiful park like campus where students learn, inquire and grow together.

About Katie Rigney-Zimmermann

Katie Rigney-Zimmermann is the Admissions and Marketing Director of Saigon South International School. She has worked at SSIS for 7 years and is part of the leadership team. SSIS is a not profit American curriculum K-12 school in Ho Chi Minh City.

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