How K-12 Schools are Adapting to New Admissions & Enrollment Realities

By Scott Gutowski | October 23, 2020 | | Communities, Education, Education Cloud, K-12 Education, Public & Social Benefit, Recruiting

Every autumn, there’s a rhythm in schools of all sizes. The new year begins with returning students and a mixture of nervous new ones flooding into hallways and classrooms. By the end of October, routines are largely set, and schools nationwide begin to take stock of where they’re at with their enrollment so they can begin to plan for the next year.

The pandemic has shattered this ritual and left schools, especially public schools, with dropping enrollments. New approaches are needed to stay connected to students and families in meaningful ways.

An empty elementary school classroom
The pandemic has resulted in dropping enrollment.

How Admissions Teams are Innovating in a Virtual World

Research shows that when students and families feel supported and engaged, they are more likely to re-enroll in their school. Satisfaction, along with the experience of a school community, is vital for continuity.

We recently hosted a webinar with school leaders on Recruiting, Admissions and Enrollment Tools to Boost Transparency and Equity. They shared insights into how they are digitally transforming processes to connect with and engage prospective and enrolled students and families. 

“I’m working under the assumption that our admissions team won’t be able to have any visitors on campus for the entire recruitment season. We’ve had to completely shift all our processes and events to virtual, and think about new, creative ways to fill our classes. We’re breaking up what was once one physical event into multiple virtual events and customizing content to best meet our families’ needs,” said Kelly Lofgren, Director of Admissions at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy.

The process of enrolling new students and staying connected with the returning student and parent body has proven to be dramatically different across the nation. The physical, in-person aspect of education has historically made up a great deal of this experience, and schools are now filling that gap virtually, and quickly.

“With Salesforce in place to fit the needs of our Family and Community Engagement Team, we quickly pivoted to expand the platform functionality. We developed and launched an entirely virtual enrollment process within one week to best support our families.” – Priscilla De La Torre, Family and Community Engagement Associate, Austin Achieve Public Schools

Using Data to Create Meaningful Connections

Targeted outreach and messaging for students and families traditionally follows a ‘one-size fits all’ approach throughout the admissions process in K-12. As education continues to virtualize itself in response to the pandemic, now is a great time for schools to think very specifically about how they are using data — not just to provide a service, but to strengthen their relationships with students and families.

“Information overload is top of mind for us right now. We don’t want to overwhelm our community,” Lofgren said. “We’re using Salesforce to manage every step of the admissions process — from application to registration — in one place to ensure students and families are able to access the critical information they need.”

K-12 schools have historically tended to focus on the transaction at hand and systems to support those transactions. The result was disjointed experiences and information rather than building on a continuum of experiences that anticipate and strengthen a relationship. Investing in a platform rather than isolated point solutions can help solve some of these challenges, but it still requires a school system to take stock of how they work and ultimately, how they collaborate to keep the student and family at the center.

Operating with New Flexibilities

We’re seeing schools respond to this data gap — which has been heightened by the pandemic — by focusing on a key question: How can we aim to do more with less? The answer to this question for school systems has been consolidating individual system efforts into a constituent relationship management (CRM) platform.

“The event registrations and data that need to be managed this year are exponentially high,” said Lofgren. “Staff collaboration is key. Having one platform where we keep our data has been extremely beneficial because our entire team can leverage that information and be prepared to engage families throughout the entire admissions process.”

Parents helping daughter with remote learning
As education continues to virtualize in response to the pandemic, schools are thinking about how they use data to strengthen their relationships with students and families.

With Salesforce.org’s Education Cloud for K-12, built on the World’s #1 CRM platform, schools can:

Utilize Flexibility: With declarative programming, your school has the ability to establish efficiencies that reflect how you work — custom workflows, data values, and personalized communications to connect with your students and families are all core features. For K-12, our free, open-source data model, K-12 Architecture Kit, helps schools collaborate around 360-degree views of student needs and outcomes, better engage families, and operationalize improvement efforts.

Empower Collaboration: Siloed or manually lost data hinders your school’s ability to truly know and best serve your students. With a connected user experience that can be leveraged across all of your departments, your team can quickly find new approaches to collaboration. Having a unified view of each student and their needs all in one place — from specialized transportation to dietary restrictions to after-school care — ensures you’re able to provide timely, relevant support.

Drive Meaningful Actions: Meaningful engagement requires understanding context. Who last communicated with a family? Who intervened when a student had multiple absences? Who responded to a dissatisfied social media post? With Salesforce.org’s Education Cloud for K-12, all of this information is right at your fingertips to help you connect with and engage your students and families.

Want to learn more? Watch this webinar to learn how schools are responding to a virtual approach to recruitment, admissions, and enrollment.


About the Author

Scott Gutowski, Director of K-12 and Community College Industry Solutions on the Education Cloud team at Salesforce.org
Scott Gutowski is a Director of K-12 and Community College Industry Solutions on the Education Cloud team at Salesforce.org. Obsessed with efficiency, if there is a better way to do something, Scott is focused on figuring it out and helping schools get more out of their investments, technology, and time so they can focus on what matters — students, teachers, parents, and employees. Scott worked in both private and public education as a technical leader for the past 15+ years where he learned to listen in order to improve.