Referral Program School Admissions

Many companies implement Employee Referral Programs because they are an extremely effective way find top quality candidates, without a whole lot of overhead. As I talk with Independent School and College Admissions teams, however, it isn’t very often that I hear of Referral Programs to help recruiting efforts.

But just last week, I had a conversation with a Director of Admissions who has built a successful incentive program to help recruit students. Each time a current parent recommends a prospective student that ends up enrolling in the school, that parent gets a $1,000 bonus: one-half paid upfrontĀ  and the other half paid during re-enrollment for the next year. For this school, it is a small investment to find quality candidates, considering the lifetime tuition generated from each. I thought it was a great idea.

So how can school admissions teams build successful referral programs?

  • Figure out the Incentive. It could be cash money, decreased tuition, meal vouchers, etc. You might even be able to negotiate with 3rd parties to get volume discounts on those products or services that you will award to parents. That way you can offer the same value, but at a lower price. Over time, you will be able to hone in on the perfect incentive that works for your school.
  • Determine the Rules.You might want to limit the number of referrals to ensure parents are only referring top candidates with a high probability to enroll. You might choose to pay out referral compensation in stages.
  • Communicate the Program to ALL Parents. Make sure parents are aware of the program, that they understand the rules, that they know what kind of candidates are best to refer.
  • Market the Program to SELECT Parents. Some parents will be better equipped to find quality candidates than others. Learn who your top “recruiters” are and make sure you continuously promote the program to them – make sure they’re excited about it and have the tools they need to succeed.
  • Analyze Performance. Set goals around participation and referrals received and measure your return on investment. Review referrals of previous years to see which were best and why. Then modify your program accordingly for next year.

Happy recruiting!

Posted by Elyn Roberts


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