Director of Marketing & Admissions (Suzhou Singapore International School)
Registrar (International School of Turin)
Admissions & Administrative Systems Coordinator (Bladins International School of Malmö)
Director of Admissions & Registrar (Cairo American College)
As the international school market grows more competitive each year, retaining students is more important than ever. The IAB recently caught up with four schools to discuss how they run re-enrolment at their schools, best practices, and how things can be improved.
Describe your re-enrolment process
KJ: We start the process in April. We email a letter to parents asking them to reregister online, and we give them two weeks. If they do not reregister by the deadline, we send follow up emails and phone calls (as appropriate) until we get to as near as 100% as possible. We do not require the parents to sign a contract but we do say that if they don’t reregister we may not be able to guarantee them a place the following year.
MJ: Our re-enrolment process usually starts after the table of fees has been approved for the next academic year, usually January, and lasts until February 15. We use the re-enrolment feature on OpenApply which allows us to customise an e‐mail for the parents explaining the process and providing the link to the site for the families to access re-enrolment. Parents must complete the form by updating their personal data, and then sign and submit. When we receive the confirmation and families pay the registration fee, the administration issues the invoice.
LS: This is the first year we have moved re-enrolment online after previously requiring signed paper re-enrolment forms. We opened re-enrolment the second week of January and gave parents until the end of February since we were using a new method. Before the deadline I sent automated reminders to parents, and after the deadline I reached out individually to anyone who hadn’t responded yet.
DA: Our school doesn’t have a re-enrolment process in the traditional sense. All students are presumed to be returning unless they have notified the school of withdrawal. In early April the business office contacts families to pay the next year’s deposit by the end of the month. The admissions office assists by following up with parents who don’t respond.
What is your biggest challenge, and what is an improvement you’d like to make?
KJ: The biggest challenge is to get everyone to re-enrol by the deadline. Many of our longterm families get frustrated by having to do this every year. I am seriously questioning the purpose of re-enrolment and if the benefit outweighs the work required. I am currently discussing this with our leadership and admissions teams.
MJ: The biggest challenge is getting families to confirm. Parents are not always aware how important it is for schools to know how many students will be returning for the planning of staffing and materials. Moving our re-enrolment online has helped this problem but not completely solved it. Next we would like to implement the payment of the registration fee as part of the online process. However, in Italy the accounting system is very complicated, so we need to see if it is compatible.
LS: When processing paper re-enrolment our biggest challenge was collecting the physical re-enrolment form. We were always reminding parents and students to bring in the form, and our office was constantly disturbed throughout the day when the form was returned. After switching to an online system, the biggest challenge has been getting the parents used to the system. An improvement I would like to make for next year is adding more information to the website on how to submit re-enrolment and answering common questions before they’re asked.
DA: We previously required families to sign a new contract every year, and I find the current method to be a big improvement over that. It’s easier for the school and the families because nothing is required besides payment unless a family is leaving. The majority of families don’t really have to do anything, which they appreciate.
What are some effective strategies for boosting re-enrolment numbers?
KJ: Make it as easy as possible for families to re-enrol by sending them a link to a simple online form, and put reminders in as many forums as possible – email, school newsletter, parent meetings, WeChat, etc.
MJ: We usually only have two types of students not re-enrolling—international families who relocate and Italian families who choose to leave after Grade 5 or Grade 8 to return to the Italian school system. With our local families who may think about not re-enrolling we provide workshops and information sessions to keep them informed of the school’s educational proposal and we try to promote the advantages of a complete international education (Nursery to Grade 12).
LS: We always encourage families to re-enrol if they intend to stay or are mostly sure they will stay. It is ok for them to re-enrol and then later fill in a withdrawal form; we have a three months’ notice. A majority of our population is solely expatriates and therefore it’s hard to get them to re-enrol when they are definitely leaving after Spring term.
“I would say the quality of education and service you provide is perhaps the largest factor in the re-enrolment process.”
In many cases, we have had parents seek local employment to stay at Bladins because they were beyond satisfied with the education and overall experience.
DA: We’ve found continuous enrolment to be the most effective strategy because parents do not have to actively re-enrol their children. Assuming that families are staying at the school helps maintain a more positive relationship for everyone.
Do you have any final tips and tricks for a smooth process?
KJ: We have increased the response rate significantly over the years by moving from a paper based process to an online process.
MJ: On OpenApply, the less clicks for the parents, the better it will work for them. We created a simple form with re‐confirmation of parent name and contact information, a button stating yes/no to confirm registration, and also, for legal purposes, the electronic signature of the parents. We’ve found that some years parents find it easier than others.
LS: In the years where I have been involved, the sooner you start the better. Giving the guardians clear instructions and guidelines is also important. The biggest transition we have gone through is going completely digital, minus the Acceptance Form for legal reasons. This has freed up a lot of time for the school office and the admissions office.
DA: The key is to maintain constant contact with the parents and remind them at every opportunity. For our school it’s more important to know which students are leaving, so we make sure to remind parents that things like receiving student records to pass on to the next school are tied to confirming withdrawal.