Spectrum of Opportunities: Building the Foundations of a Strong Educational Journey

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September 22, 2022
A graphic representing the enrollment management spectrum.

The work of admissions is different from the work of enrollment management. Admissions, the act of admitting a student to the school, is an important part of the job of an enrollment leader but it is not the only factor that influences sustainable enrollment. With 70% of a school’s annual operating revenue coming from tuition*, sustainable enrollment is critical to the health of the school. Yet many factors critical to sustainable enrollment are outside of the direct control of the enrollment leader. Schools striving toward sustainable enrollment should shift from an admission approach to an enrollment management mindset.

EMA is excited to introduce our refreshed Strategic Enrollment Management Spectrum, which defines what we mean by "enrollment management." The Spectrum captures an important concept in its two layers. Across the two layers, there are eight components or "levers" that independent school leaders can control to drive sustainable enrollment. The Spectrum is a roadmap for admission and enrollment leaders and a framework for others to understand how their work contributes to enrollment.


The inner three levers make up the most immediate work of the enrollment leader and their most direct partners. These levers are in the most direct control of the enrollment leader and often make up key elements of what is considered the work of "admissions."

Tuition & Financial Strategy
The school uses price to help achieve its goals. The school takes a long-term view on price, financial aid, cost control, and fiscal sustainability to ensure it continues to deliver on its mission.

Marketing & Recruitment of New Families
The school has a robust pipeline of applicants. The school effectively identifies and recruits an adequate number of appropriate families and stewards them through the admission process.

Selection & Onboarding of New Families
The school welcomes mission aligned families to the school. The school has effective practices and tools to determine applicant fit and ensures new families join the community smoothly.


The outer five levers are critical to the enrollment health of the school yet lie almost entirely outside the direct control of the enrollment leader. Sustainable enrollment comes with both a strong enrollment team as well as critical partnerships across the school.

Mission & Brand
The school stands for something larger than itself. All aspects of the school are deeply and authentically connected to the school’s mission and values which are well understood by internal and external audiences.

Institutional Strategy
The school balances continuity with agility. The school considers long-term trends, measures the effectiveness of current initiatives, and seizes short-term opportunities when appropriate.

Culture & Belonging
The school intentionally lives out its values through its daily practices. All members of the community are known, needed, cared for, have agency to shape their environment, and can become their authentic selves.

Programs & Outcomes
The school delivers on its mission. Effective academic, social, and cocurricular programs bring to life the journey and outcomes promised by the school’s mission.

Family Engagement & Retention
Families stay until graduation. Through both reactive and proactive strategies the school ensures appropriate engagement and retention.


The Spectrum has been developed with all kinds of schools in mind. Each school should be able to see themselves in the Spectrum and use it as a tool to inform their work. After your

school understands the key components of the Spectrum, identify a few key areas with your team and partners across your school to start in the upcoming year. EMA will be developing and releasing content and tools throughout the year to help you identify your areas of strength and areas in most need of improvement. The Spectrum will also be integrated into EMA’s core curriculum.

*Source: FY 2019 NBOA Business Intelligence for Independent Schools (BIIS) Data.

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