School enrollment is often a time-consuming and intensive process for both parents and schools, especially when students are enrolling for the first time, but it doesn’t have to be. As you think ahead toward next year’s enrollment cycle, you have a great opportunity to get ahead of the game and plan improvements to your enrollment packet. Enrollment is one of the first experiences parents will have with your school, and it’s always good to get started on a positive note. With that in mind, we’d like to share five helpful tips that your charter or district school can use to build an enrollment packet that is both user-friendly for parents to complete and easy for staff to manage, making the process streamlined and worry-free for everyone.
Rather than sorting through piles of paper and requiring parents to fill out endless forms and stand in line at the district office, consider taking your enrollment packet online and making it mobile-friendly. There are many benefits to doing so. With an online enrollment system, parents won’t have to re-enter the same information—such as their child’s name, address and key identifying data—multiple times in the same packet. This reduces the likelihood of data entry errors. You also can set up your online enrollment packet to require that certain forms, such as birth certificates, immunization forms, and documents showing proof of residency be included before the packet can be submitted, so that you don’t receive any incomplete or partially filled out packets.
If you go digital, you can take your enrollment process to the next level by integrating it with your SIS. That way, once the student is enrolled and registered, you can instantly create a record for him or her in the SIS. This also cuts down on data entry errors and saves staff time that would otherwise have been wasted manually creating new records in the SIS. What’s more, by using an online enrollment system you can have access to real-time analytics that show you how enrollment is shaping up as packets are being received.
Make Sure It’s Efficient, Complete, and Clear
As you’re creating your enrollment packet, make sure that it’s efficiently organized, simple for parents to complete, and that it provides clear instructions for doing so. Your packet should be as comprehensive and easy to understand as possible so that parents don’t have to email or call you with questions about how to proceed. Try to keep the number of forms to a minimum if you can. Take care to carefully organize your forms so that you don’t end up asking parents to provide the same information multiple times in different places. An online enrollment system can be helpful for this purpose because it allows parents to auto-fill fields that are requested in multiple forms, making it unnecessary for them to re-enter the same information over and over again. When wrapping up your enrollment packet, make sure to provide a complete checklist that parents can review either online or offline to make sure they have submitted all the required forms and any related documents.
Offer Support for Multiple Languages
If you plan on welcoming students from families whose first language is not English, consider making your enrollment package available in their native languages. Decide which languages you want to translate your forms into and set up a plan for getting them translated, allowing plenty of lead-time for that part of the process. Make sure your online enrollment system includes support for multiple languages; if you are considering adopting such a system, make that sure it offers support for the languages you require.
Make Payment Easy
If you collect payments or fees at the time of enrollment, consider streamlining that process by taking it digital as well. Online enrollment systems can accept payment via a variety of convenient methods, ensuring that fees are collected in a timely matter and reducing the staff time that would otherwise be required to manually administer this part of enrollment.
Make Expectations Clear
As you’re preparing your enrollment packet, make sure that your materials clearly state what parents can expect as they prepare their packet and submit it, and then wait to hear back on the status of their child’s application. If you have a waitlist or a lottery, for example, be sure to detail exactly how it works so parents know how to navigate that part of the process should they need to do so. Throughout your packet, make sure to prominently list the appropriate support contact information, whether that is via email or phone, so parents know where they can get help.
With thoughtful planning and by taking advantage of the efficiencies that an online enrollment system can offer, you can build an enrollment packet that makes parents’ lives easier and frees up your staff to focus on the most important goal of all: ensuring a quality education for the students at your charter or district school.
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