The Enrollment Yield Matrix: How to determine your enrollment yield for next year

By Trevor Waddington, Principal, Truth Tree Consulting

You did it! You beat last year's application totals. Even better, you did it with sixteen days to go, so there's room for more.


Before you pop the champagne, do you know how many of those applicants will be accepted? Do you have an idea of how many accepted candidates will enroll?


Additionally, and just as important, how many students will leave before graduation? #Attention2Retention


According to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), the application to newly enrolled student rate is 65% among member schools. On the other side of the coin, the average student attrition rate is 12.02.


In previous blogs, webinars, etc., we have provided insight into how you can demonstrate and build value to prospective families. We also crafted a proven, 3-pronged retention strategy.

Even with your best efforts, some families are very, very unlikely to (re)enroll. On the other hand, some families are close to 100% committed to re-enrolling or enrolling if accepted.

But who are these families, and how do you determine the likelihood that they (re)enroll or not?

When working as a marketing and admission director at my last school, I developed the "Enrollment Yield Matrix." I used it for four years as an unofficial way to predict enrollment for the coming year. In the final year, the matrix proved 91% accurate.


Here's a glimpse into the matrix that worked best that proved highly successful for my previous school.

Enrollment Yield Metric

Very Likely to (Re)enroll (Grade A)

A current student/family who meets one or more of the following criteria.

  • Receives a scholarship

  • Receives at or near a maximum financial aid grant

  • Is active in student life outside of the classroom (arts, athletics, etc.)

  • Without or with very little need for academic, social, or emotional support

  • Parent(s) are active in the school community (volunteer, board member, etc.)

  • Routinely engage with social media posts

  • Are considered "[Your School Name] Strong" (institutional knowledge to determine this group)

96% retention rate*

*These were my former school's averages over four years

A prospective student/family who meets one or more of the following criteria.

  • Sibling of a current student(s)

  • Do not have siblings at other schools

  • Legacy

  • Parents are not a legacy at another school to which they applied

  • Child of a current employee

  • Received a scholarship

  • Live in "close proximity" to the school

  • Do not have siblings at

  • In need of little or no financial aid

92% conversion rate


Somewhat Likely to (Re)enroll (Grade B)

A current student/family who meet one or more of the following criteria

  • Slightly or moderately behind on tuition payments

  • Will not receive as much financial/same percentage of financial aid as the previous school year

  • Have mild academic, social, or emotional issues

  • Have had one or two "meetings" with school personnel that demonstrates dissatisfaction with an aspect of the family's school experience

  • Rumors of applying out but have not presented your school with any applying out documents to substantiate the rumor

  • Possibly moving out of the area

84% retention rate

A prospective student/family who meet one or more of the following criteria

  • Parents, and in some cases the student, have said your school is their first choice

  • Moved through the admission process promptly

  • Regularly open and engage with emails; respond to phone calls and other forms of outreach

  • Like, follow, etc. your social media platforms

  • Have a close friend, relative, or co-worker who has a child at your school

  • Have asked minor questions in the future tense: When we are here, will I be able to go on field trips?

  • The student has a moderately strong to very strong admission profiles

  • Student of a future employee

68.5% conversion rate


Not Sure to (Re)enroll (Grade C) - This is where most prospective students begin unless they meet A-level criteria

A current student/family who meet one or more of the following criteria

  • Delinquent on payments; unable to pay tuition

  • Directly indicated they would be applying out or have applied out to just one school

  • Their financial situation has deteriorated or will deteriorate (one parent has lost a job, unexpected medical expenses, etc.)

  • The school has recommended academic, social, or emotional supports, but the parents are "not on board"

  • Have had three to four "meetings" with school personnel that demonstrates dissatisfaction with an aspect of the family's school experience

  • Did not attend a fundraising event they regularly participated in the past or reduced their annual donation

  • Have asked teachers or counselors, 'is this the right school for my child?'

  • Have stepped down from a position at the school (board, PTA, etc.)

66.5% retention rate

A prospective student/family who meet one or more of the following criteria

  • Are slow or reluctant to move through the admission process in a timely fashion

  • Live a distance that is close to the edge or outside your geographic boundaries

  • An aspect of the admission profile indicates a mild or moderate red flag academically, socially, or emotionally

  • Live close(r) to a school to which they also applied

  • A relatively weak student with direct ties to the school

  • Open less than 50% of the emails from the school

  • Do not follow any of our social media profiles, but indications are they are active on the same platform where your school has a presence

  • Indicate they contribute 15-30% less than what your financial aid program indicates

49% conversion rate


Somewhat Unlikely to (Re)enroll (Grade D)

A current student/family who meet one or more of the following criteria

  • Has applied out to multiple schools

  • Have indicated to the school that there is a significant change they will be moving out of the area

  • The financial situation has become "dire" during the school year/have not made a tuition payment to the point of incurring late fees

  • Requires maximum financial aid for one student and a sibling is now school-aged eligible

  • Older sibling(s) moved to another school after a certain grade (e.g., the other school is grades 3-12, and the older sibling(s) left your school after 2nd grade)

  • A significant possibility the student will be counseled out

  • Did not give the consistent annual donation this year

  • More than four meetings with school personnel demonstrating dissatisfaction with an aspect of the family's school experience

31% retention rate

A prospective student/family who meet one or more of the following criteria

  • The need for financial aid is at or slightly exceeds your maximum grant

  • Not a relatively weak candidate with no ties to the school

  • Parent(s) is a legacy at another school to which they have applied

  • Multiple red flags during the admission process

  • Little to no communication from the family after a certain admission process benchmark

  • Family lives outside your normal geographic area/transportation is not available to their area

  • A strong possibility there will be no space available in the grade to which they applied

  • Parents postpone or do not show up to mandatory admission process events

  • The other schools to which the student has applied all share the same traits that are different from yours (e.g., you are a secular Montessori school, preschool to grade two and the other schools to which they have applied are Catholic schools preschool to grade twelve

  • The family has indicated you are a safety school

12% conversion rate

Very Unlikely to (Re)enroll (Grade F)

A current student/family who meet one or more of the following criteria

  • Direct communication from the parents that if accepted to another school, they will transfer

  • Financial aid is no longer available

  • Moderate to significant conduct violations by student and/or parents

  • Not attending scheduled meetings with school personnel

  • Strong indication the family will be relocating outside of your geographic pull area

  • A student whose parent will no longer be employed at the school

  • A sibling was or will be counseled out

3.5% retention rate

A prospective student/family who meet one or more of the following criteria

  • Need for financial aid is more than 25% of what can be awarded

  • All older siblings attend another school, and this candidate is very strong and well-suited for the other school

  • A very weak candidate academically, socially, and/or emotionally

  • Student had a "disastrous" visitation/shadow day according to school personnel and/or parent

  • There is little or no chance that space in the grade applied to will be open

< 1% conversion rate

Well, there you have it—a matrix where math, science, and gut instinct converge.

Are there bullets you would add to your school's matrix?

Which bullets do you disagree with?


Please share your comments below.


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