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We have seats to fill, both those of our graduating class and those we hope to create by increasing enrollment.ECEnet

Easing Enrollment Anxiety

Spring time equals stress time for many of us in admissions. We have seats to fill, both those of our graduating class and those we hope to create by increasing enrollment. All of this done while keeping the focus of our mission on Jesus.

For many of us this begins right away with the new year. We prepare registration forms, update enrollment information, share new tuition rates, host open house events, smile, reach out to families who have toured within the last year, create really cool social media posts, and did I mention smile…a lot! It can be exciting and exhausting.

We transformed our early childhood hall into a winter wonderland. …Each classroom had a different activity based around STEM, Christmas style.I like to think admissions can be summed up by these three main points.

  • Retention, retention, retention. To retain means to keep, maintain, and preserve. It’s every faculty team member’s responsibility.
  • Tell your school’s story. As Mike Zimmer once said, “Facts tell, but stories sell.”
  • Sow to grow. To sow is to plant, which means preparing the field (your school, students, and teachers), nurturing the soil (Jesus fertilizes it with his love, grace, and forgiveness), and caring for the plants (our students and parents).

St John principal hands out golden ticketsTwo years ago, we had a brainstorming session about how St. John’s could get a jump start on the enrollment season, focusing specifically on retaining students in our early childhood classes moving from preschool to kindergarten and beyond. The idea was to have something in December, so we began by looking at events that were popular in our community. Our school is one block from the Metra train station, which has a sold-out Polar Express event every year. Hence, St. John’s Christmas Express was born—an early childhood event we could offer free to our community, our school and church family, and do it really well. We transformed our early childhood hall into a winter wonderland. We gave children a gold ticket, which was punched by our conductor, aka our principal, as they began the adventure.

Each classroom had a different activity based around STEM, Christmas style. We included stories and songs, math and science games/activities, crafts, and two dramatic play stations with a Nativity and Christmas Express Train. Dressing up is popularWe started with three Mary costumes and baby Jesus dolls. It’s important to mention this, because at our second annual event we needed to add two more. They were the most popular costumes, which shows that even our little friends can’t get enough of Jesus. The evening ended with cookies and warm cocoa with Santa and Mrs. Claus. At this event, we offered the unique opportunity for parents to pre-register their children that night only. God blessed us beyond our expectation with 200 attending and over 100 children enrolling.

Do I still get anxious around enrollment time? Yes, I suppose that is the nature of the position. However, this event has created an opportunity to bridge the divide between retention and increasing enrollment.

For 130 years, our school has been blessed with sharing the love and light of Jesus. May God continue to give us each the opportunity to touch the lives of children and their parents through our Real. Present. God.

KrisAnn Milas is director of admissions at St. John’s Lutheran School in Lombard, Ill.

St John winter wonderland event

Photos courtesy St. John, Lombard, IL