Interview with Jenna King, Director of Admission and Enrollment at Riverdale Country School

What's the most important thing to debrief on before planning this year's prospective family visits?

Each admission office needs to consider its own unique needs. However, the one thing that every office must consider as it plans the year's prospective family visits is what it wants families to understand about the school and how effectively the intended message is reaching the audience.

  • What is the one thing that really distinguishes your school?
  • How can you best showcase that distinguishing factor through your visits so that visiting families really get it? 
  • Who  should deliver the message and how should it be delivered?

our team should know and understand what it is you all are trying to convey.

What are some strategies you use to prepare for the upcoming year's campus visits?

As my team prepares for the upcoming year's visits, we divide up each event into very small chunks and consider every angle that the prospective families will experience.

  • What time should we start?
  • How can we make the event accessible to all different kinds of people?
  • Where shall the event be held?
  • How do we describe the event to people as they are signing up?
  • How do they go about signing up, and what information do they receive once they have done so?
  • What will we offer in terms of food?
  • Will parking be available?
  • Who needs to know that people are visiting?
  • What aspects of the school do we want to share?
  • How long should the visit last so that we can get our message across but not tie up people's schedules?

Once we answer some of these critical questions, we then assemble the event schedule. Once that is done, we notify all participants and others who may need to know. We invite those who will speak and try to give plenty of notice. Communication and planning way ahead are two keys to success. 

What advice would you give to schools who are struggling with how to approach prospective family visits?

If you are not sure how to approach prospective family visits, ask your current families. Reach out to feeder schools, and ask for their ideas. Talk to your teachers. Think about how you can best show off your school.
If it's not through an open house, don't hold an open house. If a smaller event is better, plan that. If you know you have an impressive facility to share, make sure you dedicate time to a tour. If not, perhaps the tour is not part of the event.
What I have learned over time is that you can always try something once. If it doesn't work, adapt your schedule moving forward so that you don't have to repeat the same failed event.
We always debrief immediately after an event so that we remember what went well and what needs improvement. Don't be afraid to ask for feedback from your visitors. Some schools even have them fill out a survey or comment card while they are still on campus. 

Jenna King

Jenna King became the Director of Admission and Enrollment at Riverdale Country School in July 2014 after spending 8 years as the Director of Middle and Upper School Admission and a year as the Associate Director of Middle and Upper School Admission. She is also the co-coordinator of Riverdale's advisor program. During her tenure at Riverdale, she has served as the director of community service, a history and French teacher, a coach, an advisor to the peer leadership program, and a 9th grade advisor. Jenna taught and coached at Suffield Academy in Suffield, CT before coming to Riverdale. She is a member of the board of ISAAGNY and the Admission Leadership Council of SSATB. Jenna holds a B.A. in art history and French from Dartmouth College and an M.A. in private school leadership from Teachers College Columbia University. In her free time, Jenna enjoys running and spending time with her husband and three young children.
Riverdale Country School is a Pre-K through grade 12 independent school in New York City.