The Admissions Scene: from inside and out

All schools aim to provide an admissions experience that is efficient and leaves families feeling valued and confident that they have made the right decision. Nancy Kroonenberg offers practical guidance to benefit both schools and families. 

Taking stock

admissions-3The major admissions season has wound down for many of you, and now is the time to take stock of your admissions scene. You may have lingering questions and thoughts:

  • Why did family X choose the school across town and not us?
  • I wish we had had space in Grade 3 to take that great student.
  • Why are we not filling certain grades?
  • Why do some families write or visit not having done their homework, i.e. perusing the school’s website?
  • Why was the application form not filled in correctly?
Reviewing your website

admissions-6To answer these and other questions, review your admissions process by perusing your website, and this can be done by taking a “test.” Imagine that you have a child entering grade 10.

Look at your competitor’s website (or the website of any other international school around the world). Can you find ALL of the information you need about the school and obtain clear admissions instructions?

You may want to know things about:

  • curricula (British or American or Japanese? International Baccalaureate, European Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement and/or IGCSE?)
  • programs such as ESOL and learning support
  • average class size
  • number of host country nationals
  • language(s) of instruction (bi-lingual?)
  • if the school is proprietary, subsidized or private
  • if the school has boarding
  • tuition and other fees
  • start date for the school year

Now test this out on your own website. Or have someone unfamiliar with your website test this out.

Next put your website to another test. How is the ease of navigation? How comprehensible is your website and other materials to non-native English speakers and to parents who have experienced only public or government schools? This does not mean “dumbing down” your materials. Rather, you need to think about families who do not understand international education – they do not know the acronyms, the educational jargon or even the idea of having to apply to a school.

Reviewing your application

As a follow-up step, review your application. Is it providing you with the information you desire? Again, test it for yourself or have someone else do so. Is the wording correct/appropriate? For many Asians, family name works better than last name. Have you determined and tested which fields should be required?

Assisting students with enrolling in other schools

While you are primarily focused on the students you have admitted, how do you help students you cannot enroll? In the middle of a busy admissions season, your time may be limited. At the same time, it is disconcerting to see a family who does not know where to turn next. Can you provide them with a list of other possible schools? Can you take the time to call a contact in another school?

In The Hague/Rotterdam area, admissions officers meet twice a year. First of all, it gives officers a good grasp of space availability in particular grades and programs (such as ESOL and learning support/SEN). Secondly, the personal contact means that when time permits, you/they can email or call the admissions officer in another school to get some family assistance. In several cases, families and schools have given permission to share completed applications with other schools (wouldn’t it be nice if all schools in a city or area had the same procedures and forms for the admissions process, but that is a discussion for another time).

Viewing admissions through a different lens

Having recently transitioned from admissions director in an international school to working on an expat help desk, I am now viewing admissions through a different lens. Families seek advice from us as they desperately search for available school spaces. This is what expat families approaching us face: Expats are starting to steer clear of Amsterdam due to the cost of housing and lack of international schools” DutchNews, 1/9/16:

The situation in The Hague is no better. On our help desk, we share general advice about schooling, and we steer families towards several lists of international and bilingual schools – but the lists are quite different and have minimal information.

We are now collaborating with other expat organizations to better benefit families, consultants and admission officers. By reviewing various lists of international schools, we are compiling a complete list which answers all of the “test” questions and more. In a single document (rather than a plethora of lists and websites), this “one-stop” shopping list will show which schools have IGCSE programs, is there a learning support/SEN program, is the tuition within a family’s budget, etc.

In conclusion

Several conclusions come to mind from my participating in the admissions scene from inside and outside. Hopefully, by reviewing your school’s website and admissions form as well as working with other schools and community organizations, you can better serve your own potential students while collaborating to serve students you are unable to enrol.



Nancy Kroonenberg has worked in international schools in the Netherlands, Hong Kong and Japan as a French teacher, high school associate principal, secondary principal, and admissions and development director. She has recently transitioned to a community-based expat organisation, giving assistance on the Amsterdam help desk and joining the magazine’s editorial team.


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Feature Image – Sphere with inner form – Barbara Hepworth – Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden

“Hepworth said there is an inside and an outside to every form. Many of her sculptures explore both solid shape and open space”.


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