Learn why engaging with feeder schools in your community should be part of your enrollment marketing strategy — and how it can actually be really fun!
Do you have a strategy for engaging with your feeder schools? Do you know which schools are considered your feeder schools? Or are you wondering what exactly IS a feeder school?
We’ve got you covered in today’s post!
Below, I’ll tell you what feeder schools are, explain why they’re important, offer four tips for engaging with your feeder schools, and share how you can use data to determine which feeder schools you should prioritize.
So What is a Feeder School Anyway?
A feeder school is a school that sends a large portion of its students to your school after that student leaves the feeder organization. For example, a middle school that sends a lot of eighth-grade graduates to the nearby high school is that high school’s feeder school.
This school may be geographically nearby, have a similar education philosophy as you, or simply be the natural progression for students based on their neighborhood residency.
Here’s an example of a district, Beaverton School District in Beaverton, Oregon, and their district’s web page dedicated to mapping their feeder schools:
This district serves approximately 41,000 students from a large surrounding area. Any parent or guardian who visits Beaverton’s feeder school page can learn where to send their child next.
Before you can develop a strategy for engaging with feeder schools, you’ll need to identify which schools are already sending you a large percentage of their students — and which schools you’d like to develop into future feeder schools.
Determining active feeder schools should be a part of your yearly enrollment plan.
First, collect data from incoming and even prospective parents on which schools they currently attend. A school CRM like SchoolMint Connect can help you do this!
This data will give you a good picture of which schools are currently feeder schools and where you might have an opportunity to increase your student recruitment initiatives.
To develop a list of target or future feeder schools, look for schools that meet a variety of criterion:
- Schools that are aligned with your mission
- Schools that are located in reasonable proximity to you
- Schools that serve the population you aim to serve
If you can identify why parents chose that school, you’ll be able to align your messaging to those parents specifically.
Now, once you’ve identified your feeder schools and which ones you want to target, it’s time to start engaging with those schools.
Here are some tips for doing just that!
1. Host a Preview Day for Incoming Students
If you have the luxury of already having a natural feeder school due to either proximity, boundaries, or educational alignment, consider actively and intentionally engaging with those students before enrollment season.
In theory, these students should be the easiest to recruit. But don’t count your students before they enroll — especially if you’re in a competitive enrollment environment.
Make sure these students feel as important to you as a competitor might make them feel. Work with their current school to host a “preview day” where, for example, you invite all of their current eighth graders to shadow a ninth grader for the day.
Make it an exciting day for your shadowing students by providing activities, a great lunch, and some time for them to ask questions and get to know the school. By creating meaningful connections with your current students and staff, students will be able to easily imagine what their life would be like as a student at your school.
If you have a strong student ambassador program already in place, choosing students for a preview day will be even easier!
2. Invite Local Guidance Counselors to a Lunch and Learn
In most schools, students and their parents look to their guidance counselors for recommendations on future schools.
This makes guidance counselors a great resource for you in terms of student recruitment and in terms of learning what families want in a future school.
As with any professional relationship, it’s important to establish a partnership rather than just calling them up and asking them to send students to your school. While direct cold-calling might work occasionally, it doesn’t come across as genuine, and it certainly doesn’t establish an authentic partnership.
Instead, identify something that your school does really well that might be of interest to guidance counselors in your area, and offer a free lunch and learn.
For instance, if your school is known for really great student retention, restorative justice practices, or career counseling, invite local guidance counselors to attend and to learn from you in an engaging lunch-provided professional development session.
3. Celebrate Match Day / Enrollment Day / Lottery Day
If your school is in a district that has a school choice lottery, you have a great opportunity to make a big impact on students.
- The day that lottery results are announced is an exciting day for your future students. Make sure they feel like they won the lottery by celebrating with them!
- Drop off balloons and a school t-shirt to their current school, and get their teachers and classmates talking.
- Mail home a personalized letter, too, welcoming that family to your school community. Offer some exciting things worth knowing about your school: academics, extracurriculars, clubs, and student life.
By celebrating and valuing your incoming students and their parents, you’ll ensure they enroll at your school without even considering their other options.
You’ll also have the bonus of making their friends see how great your school is to new students — and maybe you’ll even recruit a few more!
4. Run a “Thank You” Campaign Aimed at Your Feeder Schools
A great way to endear yourself to your target feeder schools is to highlight their previous students.
One great way to do this is to send a note from their previous students — who now attend your school — thanking them for preparing them for middle or high school.
You can also take it a step further and record a few videos for your school’s social media page.
In my previous role, something I saw a lot of success with was a “Thankful” campaign throughout the month of November. We did quick 20–30 second videos of our current freshmen thanking their previous school or teachers for preparing them for high school.
We were able to tag their previous school on social media, making sure parents who follow their page would be able to see how graduates of the school were finding success at our school.
These don’t need to be fancy, and you can have students inject a little personality and lightheartedness into them to make them fun and authentic.
We shared everything, from a student thanking a previous teacher for taking time to teach her coding so she could ultimately be successful on the robotics team to a student thanking a teacher for teaching him that you can like math and still be cool.
Feeder Schools: The Takeaway
The biggest thing you need to have a successful feeder school strategy is just that: a strategy.
- To really focus your efforts and know what works, you’ll need data. And even if you haven’t collected this data before, you can start now by using a school CRM platform.
- Send out a survey to current entry-level students to figure out what school they previously attended. This will give you enough actionable data to figure out what schools are already great sources of feeder school students.
- Additionally, by seeing which schools your incoming students are not coming from, you’ll identify which schools you have some work to do in order to grow them into true feeder schools.
Get creative, build relationships, and keep collecting data. You’ll have a solid feeder school strategy in no time!
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