Even in an average year, growing enrollment isn’t an easy task. But, as we all know, this isn’t an average year. The world is chaotic and we don’t know how long we’ll be navigating this “new anything-but-normal”.
Right now, we are all trying to work, care for our families, and educate our children in a whole new way– during a crisis. That in itself can be overwhelming. So, it’s okay if there are times when you feel stressed and overwhelmed. I know I feel it.
There is also reason to be optimistic. Of course, optimism doesn’t mean being blinded by the current reality. It means having confidence that there will be good things ahead and that you have what it takes to help people no matter the circumstances.
I want to share a few ideas that may help you as you navigate the next weeks and months and share some ways you can turn this chaos into something good.
Engage. Engage. Engage.
In admission, you’re always striving to engage. Your job is to showcase your school, tell your story, and to help students find their place in that story. To be successful, you must reach new families and build connections every day.
Now is the time to teach others at your school to do the same, and a great way to reach families is to get your faculty and staff involved. Of course, you are all engaging with your students already, but now is the time to make strong connections with parents as well. Right now, they are worried and overwhelmed, often balancing challenges and changes in their own jobs. At the same time, they must now be there for their children in a whole new way as a teacher, counselor, friend, and playmate.
Parents at your school need your calming guidance now, more than ever. If your team can reach out to them personally, and regularly, to see how they are doing, that interaction will make a difference. Take it a step further and share advice, ideas, and exercises that can help them as they assist with homeschooling and especially social-emotional learning.
When you serve as the helper for families, you’ll likely broaden your audience in a big and positive way. Families are all sharing stories of their experiences with at-home learning with their networks. If they are feeling that positive and supportive engagement from your school, you might just start seeing referrals come in.
Broaden Your Reach
As we serve our current students during this time, there’s an opportunity to engage with prospective families in a way we never have before. Every parent out there is struggling with home learning. There is uncertainty about when school will start again. Summer enrichment programs and camps are unlikely to happen.
Parents are also starting to read articles about the educational gap children are expected to face when they do return to school. This will likely hit public school students hardest as there has been inconsistency in the level of support children are receiving at home. Considering larger class sizes and a one-to-many- approach to teaching, it will be difficult for them to bridge that gap.
As a result, there are many public school parents that can afford tuition-based education and they are worried that their children are falling behind. The smaller class sizes and individualized learning that independent schools can provide will be appealing. Now is the time to start marketing and amplifying your value to these families.
Now, in order to reach more prospective families and students during this time, you’ll have to get creative. My hope is that you are already finding success as you navigate the process of online learning and that you are emphasizing a new way for your teachers to make meaningful connections virtually and carry through the core of what makes your school special.
What if you could take what you’re building now and use it to help prospective families? Think of those amazing things that happen on your campus that shine during tours. Can you turn them into virtual learning experiences?
Here are a few ideas to reach these prospective parents now:
- Remote story-time for the little ones with your librarian reading a book in the library you recently renovated.
- Virtual coaching sessions and athletic challenges.
- Host academic workshops designed to inspire learning like virtual Socratic seminars. Students can learn from one another and participate in group discussions.
- Have your teachers write blog posts on their classes, teaching methods, or other information on available courses.
- Record webinars with parent or student-centered exercises and resources.
- Have your Head of School host a weekly coffee talk.
You literally have a captive audience out there, all thinking about the same things. So get creative and use this time now to help them. It will make a big impact as you start your recruitment efforts next year.
Modernize your Admission Process
Coronavirus is shutting down schools, indefinitely. While some experts are cautiously optimistic that schools will open back up come Fall, there is no guarantee. We also don’t know if a second wave of the virus will shut schools down again intermittently. At a minimum, we can expect that this will be a time of economic uncertainty for many families. To ensure that you can do the work required to recruit and enroll for the Fall of 2021, you must prepare now to be able to complete next year’s admissions process remotely and digitally and you will need to connect with more families to fill the gap.
If we’re being honest, COVID-19 isn’t the only reason this change is needed. Rather, it is the catalyst that’s forcing the timing. Over the past decade, private schools across the country have struggled with enrollment and retention as a result of changing population trends and demographics, tuition affordability, increased competition from Charter schools, and difficulty connecting millennial parents. As a result, many admission teams have already adopted sophisticated online enrollment management solutions, designed to help them reach and engage with more families, and they have seen much better numbers as a result.
While it may have seemed like a nice-to-have before, now it’s a requirement. From an engaging website, to virtual admission events, to online applications, online enrollment contracts, virtual committee review, and personalized (and even automated) parent engagement, this is the time to invest in your recruitment efforts. You will likely need to convert a higher percentage of inquiries and applicants than normal.
There are several solutions out there, including SchoolAdmin, that can help you with enrollment growth. Research and find the best solution for your school now, so you can ensure next year will run smoothly regardless of the situation.
Amidst all of this chaos, there is a world of opportunity awaiting schools. If you think about it, a diamond is just a chunk of coal that did well under pressure.
So take a deep breath and take a big step forward. Because right now, you have the opportunity to create something new, personal, unique, and beautiful.
You’ve got this — it just takes a little bit of pressure.
Schedule a call with us to learn how our tools can help you modernize your admission and enrollment processes and lead to enrollment growth.