You can only make a first impression once!

I have visited over 100 boarding schools in the last 10 months. It has been a pleasure to learn more about these schools – how they are unique and the characteristics they share. Often a first stop was in the admission office. The admission office is public facing and accustomed to greeting guests and displaying the school’s best self – with the hope of matching the school strengths and the claimed differentiations.

Interestingly, one overarching commonality is the difficulty in finding the admission office. Is there an unwritten belief or value that poor or cryptic signage adds to the mystic or aura of a school? If so, from a visitor’s perspective it is confusing and discouraging – not welcoming or affirming.  The good news is that the vast majority of school people are friendly and helpful. Often the best directions came from the maintenance staff.

St. Michael's University SchoolA great practice is to have a dedicated “visitor”. Invite someone to your campus and ask for their thoughts and impressions so that you see the experience through their eyes. This is a wonderful refinement exercise. Think of this as an admission audit or a 3rd party assessment. My experience is that there is nothing more exciting than a dynamic first 15 seconds for a visitor. This was cemented for me when I visited St. Michaels University School in Victoria. I had a meeting with Paul Leslie and the door was literally opened as I approached. I will never forget it.

Isn’t that the impression you want to make for visitors to your campus?


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