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Case Study Independent School




A large urban independent day school (Pre-K - 12) located in a metropolitan city with a diverse population which has held steady enrollment each year but with declines in lower grades.  There is a significant decline at the 2nd campus located 1 hr. away.  The VPEM is retiring after 30 years and is a beloved administrator. However, they were customer centric not strategic in planning business practices, efficient systems and developing key metrics for enrollment.  The enrollment office did not have a CRM nor did they have digitized files.  The office’s physical space was not large enough to entertain the family volume necessary to grow.  Furthermore, the office décor had diminished to an embarrassing state.  The office  calendar was kept in a notebook with no on-line access.  When appointments needed to be changed, added or deleted, only the executive assistant could make changes.  When inclement weather occurred someone carried the calendar with them at all times. The current president has been tasked with growing enrollment specifically in the lower school and the 2ndcampus.  


The main campus also educates students with learning differences.  This is a college-prep school with 100% acceptance into college.  The cost ranges from $15,000 - $22,000 depending on the grade, and there is an additional fee for the learning difference program.  The learning difference program has a waitlist most of the time.  The independent school offers very little financial aid, and payment is due prior to the start of August classes each year.  Potential students and families adhere to an extensive family interview, SSAT testing on the campus by a certified professional, and they submit transcripts from previous institutions, including recommendations.


I was called to bring the independent school into the 20th century.  This was achieved by expanding enrollment and admitting the best students academically.


Initial Review


During the initial review, I discovered:


  1. Safety was a concern, as there have been several crimes committed in the local neighborhood and on the train.  Full-time security was provided as car thefts occur often.

  2. Customer service in some key areas was unacceptable.  The billing office was unpleasant to a plethora of  families and there was not a clear sense of procedures involving the payment plan.

  3. Class size was limited, smaller classes preferred no more than 14 students all the same age in 3-month birthday intervals, and an equal ratio of boys to girls.

  4. The institution had an extraordinarily difficult time posting financial aid to student accounts in a timely fashion.  This was possibly due to the manner in which the CFO held funds too tightly.

  5. They offered one open house yearly on each campus, herding students through in large volumes.

  6. There was an admission committee for admitting students and they reviewed student paper files extensively.  The policy for admission changed at each meeting.

  7. The institution did not have an adequate CRM for tracking students.  Previous year key metrics were kept on a yellow legal pad.  Historical data was difficult to obtain or analyze.

  8. The staff and faculty were energetic; however, they were reluctant to change or take risks.

  9. The admission office did not have a social media communication plan, nor did they utilize marketing.


Plan and Implementation


  • Developed strategic plan to ensure that each lead was tracked and messaged by market segment.

  • Increased attendance at independent school fairs and at local area high schools.

  • Increased productive on-campus events.  Added sessions on financial aid, safe technology for middle schoolers, SSAT Testing guidance, interview prep, etc.

  • Utilized lead generation, social media and marketing to create awareness.

  • Developed award winning video, established social media plan for marketing, utilized billboards for advertising open houses, tracked PPC and re-targeting initiatives from the website.

  • Implemented a small scholarship incentive plan for students.

  • Purchased CRM and divided territories by grade with admission team and introduced accountability for conversion and enrollment.  Increased speed and mobility of file reading to improve early admission decisions.

  • Revitalized entire admission office, new carpet, new furniture, branded, and painted.  Digitized files and repurposed file room and a storage room into 2 more offices.

  • Revised daily tour and information session to include outcomes of students and key metrics.

  • Created new testing opportunities on both campuses.

  • Established a learning difference program on the 2nd campus

  • Held weekly meetings to ensure accountability, developed action items and coached and trained the team to success.

  • Re-organized staffing responsibilities.   Placed the right people in the right seats.

  • Established a can-do attitude to exemplify an excellent student experience from inquiry to graduation.

  • Reviewed all system processes for efficiency and revised best business practices.

  • Implemented video acceptance offers for each school of students.



The acceptance rate and yield were fairly consistent but new students increased by 64 over 4 years; a gain of 16%, and an increase in revenue of $1,500,000.  As they retain these students (85%) and move them through the lower, middle and upper school, they receive future revenue benefits of over $6M in 5 years.  Diversity of the underserved population of students increased by 3%. 




The independent school enrolled record numbers in the upper school, with retention from the 2nd campus’s 6th grade to the middle school on the main campus.   The learning difference program on the 2nd campus grew from a combined 4th and 5th grade classroom (1styear) to the addition of separate 4th and 5th grade classes and a 6th grade class (2nd year).  In the third year, 2nd and 3rd grade were added.  They enrolled a combined number of 45 new students with dyslexia, dyscalculia and auditory processing issues during the 3-year period.  Diversity increased as did net revenue.  Classes were at capacity in PreK, and  the admission committee actually asked me to stop enrolling students due to volume.

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