The traditional admission funnel is broken

In my opinion, the traditional admission funnel is broken.

I believe this for two reasons:

1. The Rise in Ghost Inquiries

Ghost inquiries are those inquiries where the first point of contact with the prospective family is when they submit their application. The implications of ghost inquiries are huge.

Sure it was great that you received the application but what about all those families that researched your school and decided not to apply. The family has made a decision about your school without you having a voice in the conversation. I often wonder how many families have considered Sewickley Academy but never completed an inquiry form.

Let that sink in for a moment.

The implications are huge.

The traditional funnel model where a family would express interest in your school by calling the admission office with the purpose of receiving your admission packet are over. When the family made their inquiry, they were, in essence, giving you permission to market to them about your school. Those days are over!

The new model, as suggested by the ghost inquiry, is that families are doing their research about your school using Google, review sites like Great Schools, viewing your school’s social media channels, and talking to families and friends about their individual opinions.

When a family completes an inquiry form now, they have already made their decision that they are interested in your school.

Are you thinking about your marketing and admission processes in this new light?

2. The Funnel Signifies an End to the Process

I often walk around the office and say that it’s easier to re-enroll a student than it is to enroll a student. Where is re-enrollment represented in the traditional admission funnel?

It’s not!

Another reason that I think the traditional admission funnel is dead is that the point of the funnel signifies an end – that once a student is enrolled their journey is complete. I think that their journey is only beginning with your school.

There has been a change in this line of thinking in recent years as evidenced in the advancement model at schools as well as admission directors assuming the title of Director of Enrollment. Schools have increasingly spent more time strategically thinking about retention and my school even has a committee where we discuss retention beginning in the early winter of the school year.

What replaces the funnel?

This is a great question and one that I've been struggling with for some time. While I'm honestly not sure what form the new funnel should take I have recently settled on The Enrollment Rings.

Here is the general concept – a student moves from one ring to the next based on their level of attraction or commitment to the school. The goal of the school is to move a child into the ring in the middle which signifies an Evangelist for the school.

The Enrollment Rings Here are the Rings:

Ring 1: Awareness (of your school)
Ring 2: Interest (in your school)
Ring 3: Application (to your school)
Ring 4: Enrollment
Ring 5: Re-enrollment
Ring 6: Alumni
Ring 7: Evangelist

The Enrollment Rings help to address the two weaknesses above of the traditional admission funnel: 1. A school cannot simply focus upon Ring 2: Interest (or Inquiry) anymore, they must also focus on raising awareness of your school for mission appropriate families, 2. The Enrollment Rings have no end, as the funnel does, once a family reaches Ring 7: Evangelist a school will have to work hard in order to keep the family in Ring 7. There is never an end, or finish line – schools, must continue to cultivate individual families to keep them in the Evangelist ring.

If you also believe the traditional admission funnel is dead do you agree with the Enrollment Rings or do you believe something else has taken the funnel's place? Please share your thoughts below.

About the author 

Brendan Schneider

Hey, I’m Brendan, and this is my blog. After 28 years working in private, independent schools in mostly admissions, enrollment, marketing, communications, and fundraising roles, I decided to make SchneiderB Media my full-time job, where I help schools get more inquiries through my Fractional Digital Marketer program. I also started the MarCom Society, a membership created expressly to help, support, and train marketing and communications professionals at schools.

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