About the job: Admissions Manager
With a student body of 1,500 pupils from 70 different countries, The International School of Brussels is a large, complex operation. Robin Berting, the school’s Admissions Manager, spoke to us about life in a busy admissions office.
1) What is a day in the admissions office like?
On a typical day we start by answering emails and checking to see if any online applications or enquiries have come in. We usually have one or two meetings and tours with prospective families before lunch and another in the afternoon; each of those takes at least an hour and a half, giving families a real flavour of the school. We also regularly answer all kinds of phone calls and write formal acceptance letters.
Admissions work is about listening to people and connecting with them, telling our school's story and helping prospective families find their place in it, and managing the admissions process from enquiry to enrolment. Essentially, it’s about looking for the right ‘fit’ from both the family’s perspective and ours. Some people would call us the ‘sales team’, but we wear many more hats than that, depending on the situation: we act as intercultural interpreters, counsellors, and database managers as well as liaising with the rest of the school. Not only do we provide information about the school, we also have to correctly read the needs of prospective families and judge if our school really might be the right one for them.
"Our website is very useful, but nothing beats being able to ask questions directly..."
2) How do you help parents who are interested in your school but are not yet living in Brussels?
The majority of expats who get a job in Brussels usually come on a ‘scouting mission’ to get familiar with their new job, check out housing, and look at schools. We usually set up an appointment with them when they come on that visit. However, when they cannot come, we arrange for a Skype or phone interview with them no matter where they are in the world. That can be challenging if there is a significant time difference (like there is with the North American west coast), but where there’s a will, there’s a way. Our website is a very useful tool for prospective parents, but nothing beats being able to ask questions directly.
3) How do you accommodate students coming from different education systems all over the world?
We are used to having students come to us from all kinds of different school systems. Up until grade two, we are quite firm about grouping children by age, but after that, we place more emphasis on the grade level they are coming from, and how they are doing in that level.
4) What are the most exciting and busy times of year for the admissions office?
The busiest time of the year for the admissions office would be from February to July as we prepare for the forthcoming academic year. The autumn can be exciting for us, too, because that is when we have time to work on long-term projects such as helping the communications department produce content for, and improve, the website. Last autumn we moved to a fully online application process which is very useful for parents and us. Parents fill out the application form and upload reports and other important documents, all online.
5) Which aspects of your job do you find the most enjoyable or satisfying?
I find it most satisfying when I connect with interesting people from all walks of life, help them feel well-informed by their visit and know that they understand what our school has to offer. The hardest and most stressful part of our role is when we have to deliver bad news to a family - especially if the family had high expectations and are anticipating a different outcome.
6) What does the future hold for admissions at ISB?
The demands on international education are changing rapidly and we try to keep up with this new reality. We offer an inclusive education with extensive learning support programs for the 15% of students who need them. We also have a wide variety of course options and a large number of extra-curricular opportunities in sports, art, drama, and music. We’re very proud to have cutting-edge technology and state-of-the art facilities and spaces. As well as this we’re working on changes to admissions visits that will allow families visiting to experience the kind of teaching and learning that really goes on here. Watch this space!