A school open house can be a keystone of your independent school’s student recruitment plan. Open houses let prospects catch a glimpse of campus life, culture, and accomplishments. But planning an open house is an enormous undertaking, involving enough participants to make sure every prospective family feels engaged and has someone to talk to. Who should you include in the planning process and in the event when the big day rolls around?
Your Head of School or Headmaster
The culture of you whole school is set by the Head of School. Consequently, if your open house is going to have a prepared presentation or speech, this may be the choice that most solidly demonstrates the school’s values. It will also show parents that prospective students are in good hands.
Your Head of School might highlight accomplishments of students and alumni to show what the future holds for attendees of your school. If there’s one thing prospective parents are “shopping” for by comparing schools, it’s the best possible future for their children.
Your Teachers and Coaches
Students who enroll will be spending a lot of time with your teachers and athletic coaches. Meeting the people who would teach them arguably gives prospective students and parents the best view of what the day-to-day experience of attending your school would be like.
If your teachers have advanced degrees or special expertise in the field they are teaching, such as physics, chemistry, or Spanish, their introductions (preferably given by someone else, or included in the welcome packets) can highlight this. Prospective students looking for an excellent education in STEM, a competitive Academic Decathlon team, or the chance to play on a celebrated athletic team may find what they’re looking for here.
Student-led tours or student presentations can put your best foot forward for both parents and prospective students.
Showcase the opportunities your school has for prospective students to develop their academic, artistic, and athletic talents. Highlight the ways students will develop leadership skills, and the way you will prepare them to succeed in higher education and the world afterward. This will make it easier for prospective parents to see the value in the education you offer.
Events led by your students have the added benefit of holding prospective students’ interest. Differentiate your open house from others that may have consisted largely of adults talking to prospective students. Or worse, talking almost exclusively to their parents.
The more clearly your prospective students can see themselves learning, playing, and fitting in at your school, the more likely they will be to keep you at the top of their list when making their final decision.
Your Parent Advocates
An active Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) or parents’ association can help prospective parents feel a deeper connection to your school, as they see the opportunity for their own involvement in their children’s academic lives and education.
If your PTO is actively recruiting, they may welcome the chance to get involved and help represent your school. Meanwhile, your prospective parents will get to know the parents they would be collaborating with for school fundraisers and projects. These are the people whose houses their kids will be visiting as the students socialize with each other over the school year, and the active volunteers who make up an important part of the culture of the school.
Some ideas for PTO involvement include:
- Host a snack table-especially if it’s after work and everyone’s starving!
- Have your parents stationed at the check in table to allow families to make new connections and learn more about your school.
- During presentations, have a member or two of the PTO sit in on the discussion to help answer questions and keep parents engaged.
Don’t Forget — The Prospective Parents
Your prospective parents have already been to school as adolescents. Additionally, they may have been lectured to all day in office meetings before they came to the event. Endeavor to make your open house an interactive experience, not a series of classroom lectures. Watch our blog for upcoming posts on creative ideas to make your open house stand out!
As you work to show your prospective parents what makes your school the best choice for their children, find out what’s most important to them about their child’s next school.
Academic rigor? Artistic or athletic excellence and competition? Excellent college admissions rates, or high admissions to their child’s first choice university? Religious or cultural values?
If your school has a unique strength in a particular area, an open house is a great chance to highlight it.
For example, if your school has a STEM focus, you might highlight student projects, uncommon laboratory equipment such as electrophoresis apparatuses, or International Science and Engineering Fair attendance to excite prospective students and families.
Likewise, if your school has a strong faith-based program, allow parents and prospects to attend a youth Mass or service. That way they can experience your school’s religious education and values firsthand.
After the Open House
Recruitment doesn’t stop when your school open house ends. There are countless other strategies you can implement to help increase enrollment at your private school. For ideas about how to keep prospects engaged after they walk out those doors, all the way to the application process, keep an eye on our blog series on admissions events!
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