My Summer Experience with Independent School Admission Pros

Office of Admissions Sign

Part of my summer experience has been an enlightening few days at “admissions camp” for independent schools. In mid-July, I presented at and attended the Association of Independent School Admission Professionals (AISAP) Annual Institute in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The “admissions” camp” nickname is mine. Like camp, the sense of community was amazing. The AISAP conference had a palpable energy, passion and excitement from the more than 300 admissions professionals in attendance.

Many people knew each other. In between the 70- plus workshop breakout sessions, daily cohort meetups, morning keynotes, evening receptions and dinner, there was a great deal of socializing, networking and catching-up with old friends and colleagues.

I was delighted to co-present a workshop to 17 schools entitled “Leveraging Target Audience Market Research to Inform Brand and Enrollment Strategy for Independent Schools” with Catie Gibbons, Director of Admission at Garrison Forest School in Owings Mills, Maryland. We focused on learning how data gathered from market research guides enrollment strategy.

J. Oleisky and C. Gibbons presenting a workshop
Jonathan Oleisky, President of Kalix Marketing, and Catie Gibbons, Director of Admission at Garrison Forest School presenting their workshop at AISAP Annual Institute.

Just like summer camp, there were experiences that stood out for me and ones that I have reflected on several times since returning home to Baltimore. Two of the workshops that I attended stood out in their strategic approach to enrollment management and admissions marketing:

  • “Perpetual/Continuous Enrollment: From a Practical Point of View,” presented by Sam Geisler, Director of Admissions, Episcopal School (Jacksonville, Florida) and Larry Jensen, Director of Admissions, St. Stephen’s Episcopal School (Bradenton, Florida)

Take-away: Perpetual enrollment has parents sign a “master” contract when they enroll for the first time. That’s it. They never have to sign a contract again. An annual communications strategy needs to be deployed to support this effort so your Head of School is communicating major fiscal and community changes that parents need to be educated about. It’s a very smart strategy.

  • “Podcasting to Build Your School’s Brand,” presented by Inez Odom, Assistant Head of School for Enrollment Management and Outreach, La Jolla Country Day School (La Jolla, California)

Take-away: From the art of the interview and showcasing the most compelling message your school has to share to highlighting the admission and retention advantages of podcasting, this workshop was one of the best I’ve attended on admissions marketing. Podcasting tips: 1) Always be branding your school during the podcast; 2) Pre-planning makes all the difference; and 3) Never do a live podcast (always tape so you can edit).

I left Colorado with a renewed sense of optimism that while the admissions environment will continue to be challenging for many independent schools, a wonderful national collective of independent school admissions professionals is willing and able to address these challenges.

Learn more about AISAP here.

Found value in this blog post? Here’s another that can help up the ante for your school’s admissions strategy:

5 Top Ways to Market to and Attract Gen Z





President’s Notes
Jonathan Oleisky

Jonathan Oleisky

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