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Step 1: Setting Goals for Your Student Recruitment Plan

5 min read
Aug 23, 2023 8:00:00 AM

7 Steps to a Better Student Recruitment Plan: Step 1

Welcome to the first part of our seven-part series, 7 Steps to a Better Student Recruitment Plan! If you have already read this step and completed the assignments, head over to Step 2

Starting today and continuing through the upcoming weeks, you’ll learn everything you need to know to create a strong student recruitment strategy, regardless of the type of school you work in or operate.

Today, we’re kicking off the first installment with setting goals, including what makes a goal a smart one and how you can get started creating your own.

Let’s go — and remember to do the two (easy, I promise) assignments at the end to start crafting your strategy!

Setting Goals for Your Student Recruitment Plan

Your first step in goal setting is to think through and then write out what your recruitment goals are for the next school year. It’s easy to say something like “get more kids,” but goals like this are too vague and aren’t actionable. You want a real number that’s based on your school’s needs.

To start, look at your existing enrollment numbers.

Start with your lowest grade. In this example, we’ll use kindergarten. However, you can sub that for sixth grade, ninth grade, etc. — whatever’s applicable to your school.

Note: These transition (or “feeder”) grades are the most important to concentrate on because these grades are the point at which most parents and guardians must find a new school. Since they’re already looking, it’s easier to get their attention than it is to convince a non-transitioning family to leave their current school.

So, let’s go back to the example. Ask yourself, “What size class do I want to attract for kindergarten?”

If you have three kindergarten classes and each class has 22 students, you need to enroll 66 new kindergarten students each year. With that number now known, you can get to work setting some proper goals!

Setting SMART Goals

Once you have your target number, you’re ready to write some SMART goals — a framework for creating actionable, achievable goals. The acronym SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-Bound

Refer back to the earlier goal of “get more kids.” You can see how it doesn’t work as a SMART goal. Instead, using the goal of getting 66 kindergarten students, your goal would be “By the first day of the next school year, we will enroll 66 new kindergarten students.”

This goal is specific (66 students), measurable (you can track your enrollment count), attainable (yes, because you enrolled that many last year), realistic (yes, for the same preceding reason), and timebound (by the start of the next school year).

Now you’re ready for your first assignment!

Assignment #1: Write Your SMART Enrollment Goal

Your first order of business: create your SMART goal! Ensure it’s aligned to the five tenets (smart, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timebound), and write it out. Place it somewhere visible (on your desk, in your office, etc.) to remind yourself every day what your goal is.

Afterward, take this goal to your leadership as well as any recruitment team members. By having a shared goal, everyone will be working toward the same goal — making it leagues likelier you’ll actually achieve what you set out to do.Subscribe to the schoolmint blog ad

Diagnosing Your Enrollment Challenges

So you know what you want to achieve. You have a well-defined, strong SMART goal. You’ve taken the first step toward creating a winning student recruitment strategy!

Now it’s time to go a bit deeper and determine what stands in the way of achieving that goal.

An effective way of uncovering those barriers is by using the student enrollment funnel. The enrollment funnel is a way for you to track potential families as they move through the four phases of enrollment.

The idea is simple: families don’t wake up one day and decide on a whim to choose you. They may not even know you exist!

Potential parents and guardians go through a discovery process before they enroll. You can see this process represented in the enrollment funnel:

student enrollment and recruitment funnel chart

The funnel is designed as such because you have the greatest pool of families at the beginning. As families do more research into different schools — as they move down the funnel — that pool shrinks.

Here are questions you should think through regarding each phase:

  • Awareness: Do families know your school exists?
  • Consideration: Does your school offer families what they want (location, grades, programs, reputation, etc.)?
  • Engagement: Are families requesting more information, a tour, a shadow day, an open house, or other events?
  • Enrollment: Do families actually enroll?

Using this framework, ask yourself, “Where am I falling short in my recruitment efforts?”

For example:

  • If 100% of families enroll after you give them a tour, you know you don’t need to focus on engagement.
  • Conversely, if you’re struggling to get anyone to come to an open house, perhaps you’re having issues in the consideration phase.
  • If it seems like there are fewer and fewer families interested in your school, you need to focus on awareness.

Generally, all schools need help with awareness. And just because your school has been in the neighborhood for X years doesn’t mean people know you. Don’t assume you don’t have an awareness problem.

So think about where your recruitment efforts are falling flat. Which phase do you need to focus on the most?

Assignment #2: Write Which Phase in the Enrollment Funnel Needs the Most Help

Using what you learned above about the enrollment funnel, determine which of the four phases you need to focus on. You can get additional advice on this in Diagnosing Why Enrollment is Down at Your School.

By determining which phase you need to focus on, you will be able to enact a plan start for overcoming those barriers — setting you on the path to enrollment success.

...and that’s it for this week!

You’ve taken the first step toward creating a strong student recruitment strategy. You have your goal. You know what you need to focus on. And just by following along with this series, it’s clear you’ve made improving student enrollment a priority.

Now you’re ready for next week’s topic: identifying your school’s story. Head over to Step 2 here!

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