Effective Practices : Enrollment


Admissions
Enrollment Section 2

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1. Describe the process by which a student is admitted to your school. If different processes are used for different sections of the school (parent-tot, nursery/preschool, kindergarten, grades, high school) describe how and why the process is different.
2. Does your school have a written admissions policy? Describe the key elements of the policy and attach a copy if possible.
3. Which person/group has the final authority to decide if a student will be offered a place in the class? Who else must be consulted before such an offer can be extended?
4. What is the role of the enrollment director in the admissions process?
5. Does your school have any written guidelines describing the kinds of questions that should always be asked, can be asked or that should never be asked in an interview with either parents or students? Attach a copy of these guidelines if available. How was the list developed, and how is it maintained?
6. The success of a student in a private school is influenced in large degree by the understanding a parent has of the school’s values, structure, and approach. What methods does your school use to ensure that prospective parents are fully aware of the commitments (financial, social, and philosophical) they are making when they enroll a child?
7. When in the admissions process does the family’s need for tuition assistance get answered? How is this need addressed, and by who?
8. When a student has been in another educational environment, do you require transcripts prior to an acceptance decision being made? Is there other documentation required? How are these documents helpful in informing the acceptance decision?
9. Describe the key elements of the philosophy that informs your policies, practices and procedures in the area of Admissions.
10. What is particularly effective in your work with Admissions?
11. If you could change any aspect of your Admissions program, what would you change and why?

ENR 2-1

Describe the process by which a student is admitted to your school. If different processes are used for different sections of the school (parent-tot, nursery/preschool, kindergarten, grades, high school) describe how and why the process is different.
The admissions process is managed by the Enrollment Director, and begins with an inbound telephone call. The first question is the student’s date of birth so that a determination can be made about whether the enrollment is for the early childhood program, the lower school or the high school. Generally speaking schools require students to be six years old by May 1 of the year prior to entering first grade, although consideration may be given to students with May birthdays. This same age range is maintained throughout the 8 grades of the lower school so that there is developmental consistency within the classes. At times this means that a student transferring from another school may need to repeat a grade, and the Enrollment Director answers any questions a family may have about this requirement.

Enrollment processes differ between the Early Childhood program, Lower School and High School. In general, families that contact the school are sent an information packet and encouraged to visit the school at one of the age-appropriate outreach events. Some schools make attendance at an orientation or other event a mandatory part of the process; these requirements are discussed in more detail in the descriptions of the admissions process for the various parts of the school. Parents are also encouraged to make an appointment with the Enrollment Director so they can learn more about the school and ask questions that pertain to their student and family situation.

Early Childhood
Several schools start their Early Childhood program with a parent/tot class. The Enrollment Director and the Parent/Tot Director meet and review the list of families interested in participating in the program. Letters are mailed announcing the upcoming session, and admissions are done on a first come first served basis. Families that are currently enrolled in the program are typically offered an opportunity to renew before the general mailing goes out. Many schools limit the number of days that a family may participate in the program, as the classes are quite popular and are an excellent source of students who matriculate into the school’s nursery program.

The Early Childhood Center of a school typically receives the most applications and enrolls the most students each year. Some schools offer informal opportunities to visit the Early Childhood Center. These events are typically held on a Saturday morning. Parents come with their children to play in the classrooms and yard, and to enjoy a puppet play. However, all applicants for the nursery and mixed age kindergarten programs are required to attend a mandatory parents-only orientation meeting or similar event. (Note: schools with large early childhood programs offer parent/tot programs for children aged 18 to 30 months. Children aged 30 months to 4 years old are enrolled in a nursery program that is similar to that offered in the mixed age kindergarten program. Children aged 4 to 6 years old are enrolled in one of the schools kindergarten classes.) At these meetings the teachers give parents a comprehensive overview of Waldorf education and the school, with time for questions and answers. Interested parents are given an application and an interview is arranged between the parent and the teacher or admissions committee and a decision made regarding acceptance. Some schools choose to interview every candidate that applies, while other schools rank applications based on pre-determined criteria and interview parents and meet students in that order until all openings are filled. Schools that choose to interview all applicants are making a significant commitment in terms of faculty time. One school reported conducting 65 interviews for 10 openings last year!

In the interview process teachers assess families as to their interest in supporting their child at a Waldorf school. This means the family knows something about the philosophy that underlies the education and that they are willing and able to provide a home environment which will support that program. The teachers also look at the school’s ability to serve the child as it is not in a position to serve children with serious emotional or educational needs. The decision making process is based heavily on the family interview and the teachers’ observation of the child.

The applications for the early childhood program are distributed by the Enrollment Director to various teachers for interviewing. The Enrollment Director has a few criteria in mind in choosing how the applications will be distributed among the teachers. In some cases families have had an older sibling in the kindergarten and they express a desire to have the younger child placed with the same teacher. The school also works to provide a consistent age distribution between all of the mixed age classes so that each class “graduates” about a third of its students into the first grade each year.

Lower School
Most families start the application process for the Lower School by attending a Walk Through the Grades or other similar orientation and tour. These tours provide an opportunity for parents to visit several classrooms and then meet with teachers or other representatives of the school for an overview of Waldorf education and the school. A question and answer opportunity is also provided. Families that are interested in enrolling complete an application. Once the application, transcripts (for students in grade 2 and up), and any required teacher/counselor referrals are received an interview is scheduled between the teacher, the parent(s) and the student. Students are often asked to visit the school for a period of one to five days prior to an acceptance decision being made.

In the Lower School teachers assess the family’s interest in supporting their child in a Waldorf school and the school’s ability to serve the child. It is also important that the student does not have serious behavioral difficulties and is able to fit into the class academically. To this end some schools require, in addition to the transcripts and referrals mentioned above, that examples of student work be submitted. Some schools also require a student application to be completed as part of the admission process.

Special processes are used in schools for students applying for the first grade. These are described in more detail in the section titled Transitions from Kindergarten to First Grade.

High School
Parents and students typically attend one or more events to learn about the Waldorf high school. Some schools offer information evenings at which parents and students listen to teachers, current students and alumni speak about Waldorf education and the school, and then have an opportunity for questions and answers. Samples of student work are also presented. Alternatively, some schools offer open houses in the high school. Other schools offer Classroom Previews. At the Preview parents and students are able to attend a main lesson class, after which they meet with the teachers who present an overview of Waldorf education and the high school.

Interested parents/students complete an application. Transcripts and written recommendations are reviewed by a designated representative of the high school. If the student appears eligible for the school an English and math skills test is scheduled as well as an interview. If there appears to be a good match between the family and the school, the student is invited to spend a day visiting the school. At the end of the visit a decision is made whether or not to accept the student.

The high school looks for families who are interested in supporting their child at a Waldorf school and the school’s ability to serve the student, balanced with behavioral and academic compatibility. The school also looks for indications that the student has the will to do the work necessary to be successful in the Waldorf high school. Students must have a C or better in all academic classes to enter the school. Transfer students are made aware of any courses they may need to complete outside of the school in order to have the appropriate credits to graduate.

ENR 2-2

Does your school have a written admissions policy? Describe the key elements of the policy and attach a copy if possible.
Most schools did not have a written admissions policy. Schools are strongly encouraged to protect their rights and make their policies clear by providing all applicants with a written Admissions Policy. A sample admissions policy is available on the ISACS (Independent Schools Association of the Central States) web site, www.isacs.org. Select the Resources button on the home page, and then select Monographs. The site provides a number of excellent articles on this and other enrollment related issues. Readers are also encouraged to read the monograph on Admissions Enrollment and Re-enrollment Decisions and Records.

ENR 2-3

Which person/group has the final authority to decide if a student will be offered a place in the class? Who else must be consulted before such an offer can be extended?
In the Early Childhood Center and the Lower school it is the class teacher that makes the final acceptance decision. A special Acceptance Committee makes all decisions for incoming students for the first grade. In the high school it is generally an admissions committee or the class sponsors who will make the final acceptance decision. Some schools also require that the College of Teachers accept the student based on the teacher’s recommendation. At some schools the College sign off is required for all students. At other schools approval is required just in special circumstances such as when acceptance will increase class size beyond the school’s preferred maximum.

ENR 2-4

What is the role of the enrollment director in the admissions process?
The Enrollment Director is responsible for facilitating the admissions and inquiry process in such a way that the right decision is made for the child and the school. The Enrollment Director coordinates communication and process. She answers questions, gives tours, provides information and copies of articles, and issues applications. She provides information to the teachers and schedules family interviews. It is also the role of the Enrollment Director to schedule and facilitate such events as the Walk Through the Grades, a Morning in the Kindergarten, Kindergarten Orientation Evenings, and High School Previews/Open Houses.

The Enrollment Director may do some initial screening, helping ensure that there is a good cultural fit and that the school is able to serve the child’s needs. Sometimes the Enrollment Director is a member of the school’s Admissions Committee. However, the Enrollment Director’s role on this committee is to provide support and facilitate process; she is not generally involved in making assessments of students or making acceptance decisions.

ENR 2-5

Does your school have any written guidelines describing the kinds of questions that should always be asked, can be asked or that should never be asked in an interview with either parents or students? Attach a copy of these guidelines if available. How was the list developed, and how is it maintained?
Several schools have standard questionnaires that are used in the early childhood area and in the high school. Schools ask parents to complete a detailed questionnaire about the child as part of the admissions process in the Early Childhood area (See: EC Questionnaire for Parents). In the high school practices vary. Some schools ask students to complete written questionnaires as part of the application process. (See: High School Student Questionnaire) Others use these forms to guide the interviews of parents and students. (See: Waldorf High School Admissions Interview) None of the schools studied currently had forms for use in grades 1-8, nor did any school have written general guidelines for interviewing or the correct way to phrase various questions.

ENR 2-6

The success of a student in a private school is influenced in large degree by the understanding a parent has of the school’s values, structure, and approach. What methods does your school use to ensure that prospective parents are fully aware of the commitments (financial, social, and philosophical) they are making when they enroll a child?
Schools try to provide information on Waldorf education (its curriculum and underlying philosophy) in many different ways during the admissions process. It is described in the school’s enrollment brochure and in various articles that schools provide in the information packet. Schools reported having good experiences with the Utne and Mothering magazine articles, Schooling the Head, Hands and Heart by Ronald Koetsch, and 32 Questions on Waldorf Education.

Another source of information is the mandatory orientation that most schools hold. The orientation programs in the high school and in the Early Childhood area are separate events so that parents have the opportunity to hear and ask questions about age appropriate perspectives on Waldorf education. In the lower grades the Waldorf philosophy and approach to education is discussed at the Walk Through the Grades, and in one on one interviews with the Enrollment Director and Class Teacher.

A copy of the tuition and fee schedule is provided to parents early on in the process, usually in the first information packet. Schools with scrip purchase commitments describe their requirements in the same financial facts document. Parents are often advised at this same time that financial aid is available to qualifying families.

One area that is not given as much focus as might be appropriate is the subject of donations of time and money. Schools are encouraged to speak clearly about this topic at their orientations and Walk Throughs. It is important that families be aware of the fact that private schools are not supported through tuition alone and that they are dependent on the generosity of parents and other family members to provide the quality education they expect for their child. Gifts of work, wealth and wisdom are all required to keep the school operating at a high level, and parents need to be aware of the expectations in this area.

One school noted that it requires all students applying to the high school to write a letter explaining why they wish to attend. Parents are required to write a letter explaining how they will support their student at the Waldorf high school and why they believe the transfer is the correct one for their child.

ENR 2-7

When in the admissions process does the family’s need for tuition assistance get answered? How is this need addressed, and by who?
In most schools parents receive general information about tuition assistance in their information packet. The information states that assistance is based on demonstrated need and that applications must be resubmitted annually. The packet may also explain various aspects of the tuition assistance program. For example many schools do not give aid in the Early Childhood area. Families are encouraged to apply to the school, and then to provide as much information as they feel will be helpful to the aid decision. In most schools families may not apply for aid until they have been accepted. In those rare cases where a family gets a smaller grant than they feel they need, most schools allow the family to void the tuition contract and cancel enrollment.

ENR 2-8

When a student has been in another educational environment, do you require transcripts prior to an acceptance decision being made? Is there other documentation required? How are these documents helpful in informing the acceptance decision?
All the schools studied require transcripts for schooling completed to date for applicants in grade 2 and above. Schools generally require these documents to be in hand prior to scheduling any interviews or classroom visits. Some schools also require reference letters or teacher/counselor recommendations.

ENR 2-9

Describe the key elements of the philosophy that informs your policies, practices and procedures in the area of Admissions.
The processes that are set up should be reasonably uniform, but will also reflect that different information and processes are needed as the children get older. Be clear on why the processes are different.

Processes must be clear, fair, and timely.

Processes and information should be clear and fair. There should be a transparency about what we do and what we’re about.

Be able to speak clearly and concisely in jargon free language, so that people want to hear more. Relay information in a friendly, non-threatening way.

Don’t hide who you are.

Allow your Enrollment Director to be committed to enrollment. Don’t spread her too thin with other responsibilities.

Get families onto the campus. Our students are the best salesmen; people get an immediate reaction when they visit the school.

Follow up with thank you notes and a phone call. Be thorough and meticulous in following up on every applicant. Follow up is critically important.

Pick up the phone as soon as it rings. Don’t let calls go to voice mail; a friendly interested voice is a key in Admissions work.

Try to get both parents to attend the tour. Husbands in particular are often surprised and positively affected by what they experience once they are campus.

It’s important to provide information as early as possible so inquiring parents get a good understanding of how we work and what we’re trying to achieve from the very beginning.

Have an open and inquiring and listening environment so families feel comfortable asking questions and revealing their needs. Create an environment that allows a real conversation to take place. The admissions process is all about helping the student and the family find the right place.

The admissions process is most effective when the Enrollment Director and teachers are able to work together to create uniform processes that apply to a whole body of the school.

The success of the student must be in balance with the success of the class. The need to create a successful balance here informs all the aspects of the admissions process.

It is important to begin the student’s life at the school with a strong sense that the school is a good match for the whole family, and that everyone can work together.

Be friendly and encourage people, but stick to your process. Once the school begins making exceptions it can get very difficult to manage.

Insist on timeliness from parents and from teachers. Forms must be in on time, and teachers must make timely decisions.

Know your process well so you can be consistent with everyone.

Don’t rush it just because the teacher and the family want the student to start the next day. Get all the forms and paperwork done before the child starts.

Stick to your age definitions. Set up a formal process for making exceptions.

ENR 2-10

What is particularly effective in your work with Admissions?
Communicating the clarity of the process makes applicants comfortable. The goal is to get families through the process in a smooth way, and the school gets much favorable feedback from applying families who compare the school’s process to what they experience at other institutions where they are applying.

There is a real effort to keep everyone informed so that no one (teacher, parent or student) is ever caught off guard. The intention is that even when bad news must be communicated the family should leave with the feeling that the school did everything to consider the application fully.

To be able to speak about the incredible high school faculty, to speak with authority about how we prepare our students for college and the world beyond high school, and to have an extraordinary support staff in the admissions office all contribute to the effectiveness of our Admission work. It has also been very effective to speak about the balance achieved in the high school curriculum between the academic program and the arts. People respond very positively to the extensive art program offered to balance the rigorous academic offerings. We also speak confidently about our reverence for the spiritual life of the student and about how the high school curriculum speaks so clearly to their inner life and the developmental stages they travel through each year.

As Director of Admission in the high school, I can also speak from the experience of having a son who attended the high school and is now at an Ivy League college, so I can add that personal experience as I answer questions and concerns of families. In addition, I have another son who is currently attending the high school. Getting to know the students during their high school experience has been an important part of the process of being able to speak to applicants and their families about the environment of the high school and how the education prepares them for their journey into the world.

The Director of High School Admissions also serves on the school Sports Committee, is President of the school’s athletic league, and she serves on the Board of Managers of the regional sports section. This allows her to speak with great enthusiasm and authority about our sports program. Every one at the school is very friendly. It is a mature school and people are able to sense that the school is held in a very grounded way.

Having someone focused on Enrollment, rather than just registration, has paid big dividends.

Our outreach events are truly excellent. The Walk through the Grades and the mandatory Kindergarten orientation and the Morning in the Kindergarten are well done and really meet families’ needs.

The First Grade transition orientation has been offered for two years now, and it’s really helpful to the school and to families.

The Play group brings in families with very young children. It is a great educational tool and builds community from the very beginning.

Taking the time to meet and talk individually with an inquiring family pays great dividends.

The school outreach calendar is designed with enough events, and events scheduled in a specific order, that parents get a strong sense of what life in the school will be like and an understanding of the admissions process.

There is a written admissions process that goes into the admission packet that clearly outlines the various steps.

The High School admissions process is calendared to match with that of other area schools.

The process is well coordinated, consistent and timely.

The scripted interview presentation in the early childhood is very good. It is particularly effective when done in conjunctions with all the other elements of the inquiry and acceptance process.

The school’s special needs policy works very well.

Having a single person who manages the entire process is vital. This is not a task that can be easily split between multiple people.

ENR 2-11

If you could change any aspect of your Admissions program, what would you change and why?
The information packet could use some improvement. The document that describes the history of the school needs work. Several documents need updating, and could stand to be improved visually.

It would be good to have a uniform interview procedure for grades 1-8.

Continued attention is needed in the transition of students from KG to 1st and 8th to 9th.

We need a more uniform procedure for the LS class teachers in their admissions work.

The Enrollment Director would like the teachers to entertain the idea of an admissions committee so that more people than just the class teacher or sponsor are involved in the process.

Enhance the school web site to include an online application, clear procedures and overviews of the school, creating in effect an online brochure.

It would be great to have a brief statement of vision, mission and values and to make that available to families in the school’s information packet. It would be helpful to find a way for a family to know if there is even a hope for financial aid prior to acceptance.

We must find a way to let prospective families know that tuition does not cover the full cost of operating a school, and that gifts of wealth, work and wisdom from parents are required if the school is to continue to meet its goal.

It is painful to have more families applying to the kindergarten and the first grade than can be served. We need to start asking questions about the possibility of double tracking.

The lack of a grade application has just been addressed - we’re anxious to see how our brand new application will work.

A follow up phone call on applications issued but not returned is not done. This could have a positive impact on enrollment.

A letter explaining the purpose of the detailed early childhood questionnaire would be helpful. Sometimes people feel that these questions are very personal.

It would be helpful to have tours done during main lesson rather than later in the morning.

We hope to create a DVD about our high school to use with our outreach to the various feeder schools who send us most of our applicants. We strongly believe if we can reach more families with an effective visual introduction to the school, we will generate more interest, more visits and ultimately more applications to the high school. We also hope to make more personal visits to these feeder schools in the coming years to speak personally with larger audiences of potential applicants from the Waldorf grade schools and other independent schools in the surrounding area.

We would like to have more time to do follow up work with families who discontinue the application process midstream to determine what hinders them from continuing.

More work could be done with the class teachers to develop a more standardized approach to interview questions. This will be helpful for less experienced teachers in particular so that a list of core questions is developed and available to support the teacher.

It would be great to find a way for outside students applying to the ninth grade to experience both the rhythms of the high school and to spend some time with their future classmates in the current 8th grade.


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