Monday, March 7, 2011


The newest edition of Fortune magazine lists the world’s most admired companies. The top four, in order, are Apple, Google, Berkshire Hathaway and Southwest Airlines (see a related post from 2010 here). Not particularly surprising to see them all at the top of the list. They are certainly leaders in innovation, thinking and profit-making in their respective industries.

As discussed on Morning Joe last week with Fortune’s editor-in-chief, the other attribute these companies share is founders and/or CEOs who are tremendous risk takers. They are all out-of-the-box thinkers and willing to throw caution to the wind in pursuit of their vision. They perceive the future in a way the rest of us are desperate to grasp.

Doesn’t sound like our industry, does it? Prep schools are not really risk-taking places and with few exceptions, there aren’t many schools that could literally afford to accept risky behavior from their admissions director. But our work has evolved in so many ways and there are certainly some industry leaders. I would imagine the names coming into your head right now are the names of which I’m thinking, too.

Somebody had to be the first to try having a school website, the first to see the future of Facebook and create a school page, the first to harness Skype to conduct an interview, the first to take an iPad to a fair, the first to create a school app.

And we haven’t lacked for out-of-the-box thinking either. Concepts like enrollment management, net tuition revenue, and geodemographics have all been introduced to our industry since I joined it. Remember when we had more financial aid than demand? Someone had to first think how best to maximize it and spread the wealth when we started to finally run short (due to our own fault as tuition increases outpaced cost of living increases for over a decade).

What’s next? I can assure you I haven’t a clue. But it’s inspiring to be in the game and see the big thinkers wrestle with how we make our offices and our schools more successful, more efficient, and more committed to serving students. It’s exciting to consider how we stay current, relevant, and at the front of the pack.

My guess is it’ll be somehow associated with an Apple product. iAdmissions? It beats boarding-licious!

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Case Study

Have you been following this great tale of mission, honor and integrity? In short, BYU basketball has been successful in ways never seen before at BYU. Historical success one might say. They recently reached their highest ranking in 23 years.

But its star center broke the BYU honor code by having premarital sex with his girlfriend and when he willingly confessed to the athletic director and his coach, they turned him in. The university suspended him from the team for the balance of the season while they determine if he will be allowed to even remain a student. And the team has subsequently suffered…greatly.

The response? Impressive. The player, the teammates, the coach and the athletic director are all supporting the university’s decision. More than supporting it, they are defending it. And they are all supporting the player. The honor code is clear and any student who enrolled there did so willingly agreeing to it. And when the suspension is over, coach and teammates alike have publicly stated they will welcome the player back.

Isn’t it suppose to be this way? This whole thing could be a case study. School has transparent mission and expectations. Admissions articulates them clearly and with pride. Students and parents choose to embrace them and enroll. Students, as they are want to do, make mistakes. School responds in line with who they say they are. Everyone is in agreement. Student learns a lesson.

I wish I lived in Utah. I’m inclined to buy BYU season tickets right now.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Picnic, anyone?

It’s been a tough few days. I discovered an applicant family was being dishonest and unethical in their dealings with various admissions offices, essentially trying to pit one against another. It’s always sad when this happens, particularly when seemingly decent kids become the victims of unfortunate adult behavior. It is the topic of another post for sure but at some point we have to consider what it is about the prep school admissions process that leads parents to make these poor choices.

What was affirming in the midst of all this, however, was the collegial relationship amongst the admissions directors involved. One had a suspicion and contacted another in a non-accusing way to make an inquiry. That colleague responded not the least bit offended. A third was brought into the conversation. Together we compared notes and collectively understood what had happened. Together we allowed our personal and institutional relationships to overcome and rise above the immediacy of the situation. We all knew applicants come and go, and that the bonds between colleagues had to endure beyond them.

Recently on the plane (shocking, I know) I was reading an article about the psychology of mobs, like the ones at an English football game, whose rush to the sidelines have crushed others to death. The author was comparing human behavior to that of ants, noting that people are individualistic but that ants are profoundly social. We work to our own best interest; ants employ a collective intelligence.

Thank goodness our profession is essentially one of ants, that we have the ability to work collectively and beyond our individual (or institutional) needs. We’re in it for more than that. We’re in it for the social good. It makes me proud. See you at the next picnic.