Last week, you learned how describing the benefits of your school is key to making your student recruitment efforts more effective — and how you have to give families a reason to choose your school beyond it being the default choice.
This week, you’ll learn how understanding where families are coming from and how tailoring your messaging accordingly is the next step toward building your strategy.
To get started, think about the circumstances that would drive a parent or guardian to search for a school:
Their child is enrolling in school for the first time
They’ve reached a natural transition point (elementary to junior high; junior high to high school)
They’re unhappy with their current school and want to go elsewhere
They’re moving out their neighborhood, city, state, etc.
Most often, it comes down to those four circumstances. And putting yourself in their shoes to understand what they’re going through at this moment will make your enrollment much more effective.
So, just as you had assignments for the previous two weeks, let’s dive into this week’s two assignments.
Assignment #5: Go to Your Website
Okay, so this assignment isn’t to visit your website and just admire it. Go to your site, then imagine you’re a first-time kindergarten parent. Really critically think through whether you’re making new parents feel comfortable sending their child to your school.
A new parent will be concerned with how their child will be treated, whether their teacher will be nice, and if their child will be safe for all those hours they’re at school.
You want to be sure the kindergarten section of your website reinforces all that. And if your site doesn’t have a kindergarten section, get one now! You can’t assume new parents will implicitly trust you. You need to build that trust, starting with your site.
Are you showing videos of the kindergarten teachers?
Are you offering “shadow days” for new kindergarteners?
Basically, what are you doing to ensure new parents feel they’re making the best decision by sending their little one to your school?
If you’re not a K–5 school, you’re not off the hook either! Just because a student is currently enrolled with you doesn’t mean they will enroll with the next school in your district or school system.
Marketing-savvy schools know that transition years are their greatest opportunity to recruit students away from your school(s). Why?
For parents, the impact of switching schools during transition grades is minimal. If they stay in your district and go to the next school, their child will likely have to find new friends anyway.
They’ll wonder if your district is fulfilling its promises and remains the best place for their child to be educated. If not, these transition grades represent the best time for them to leave your system and enroll elsewhere.
If you maintain multiple campuses and have students matriculate up to a new building and grade level, focus on these transition grades, and work to ensure you’re keeping these students.
Assuming families will stay because of inertia is what gets schools in trouble with their enrollment numbers.
Assignment #6: Support Matriculating Students
Do you have a plan for helping matriculating students matriculating to the next grade get excited about what their new school (or campus) has to offer?
An unhappy student or family is generally who you think about when you are envisioning recruitment. These are the people who may be transferring mid-year.
Think about how you currently operate for these families:
Can they still tour?Or do you do that only during open houses?
Can they register easily at any point in the year? Or do you take down this information after the typical enrollment and registration “seasons”?
Does your district accept out-of-district or intra-district transfers? Or are you inadvertently telling parents they need to go to a private or charter school because your transfer processes aren’t set up for them?
Look through your website as if you were a parent who was trying to enroll mid-year. Is it an easy process? If not, you need to fix it.
What About Families Who Move?
Thus far, this post covered how to recruit families who fall into specific categories when searching for a school. To recap, those four categories are:
Their child is enrolling for the first time
They’ve reached a transition point
They’re unhappy with their current school
However, when meeting with our enrollment consultants, schools tend to talk the most instead about recruiting families in that fourth circumstance — the parents who are new to town.
Next week, you’ll learn how to attract those families. However, know that your school will be far better served if you focus on families in the first three circumstances. It’s these families who will give you the greatest returns on your student recruitment efforts.
Focus on the easy wins, where you can make the most impact with the lowest amount of work is the key to beginning any kind of recruitment effort.
Join us next week for step four, where you’ll learn how parents “shop” for and ultimately choose schools.
In the meantime, if you’re interested in some outside help in understanding your school community and local families, check out our enrollment marketing services. Our expert team would love to help you!