Most marketing and admissions teams measure success by how many seats they fill in a particular school year. And over the last few years, independent and faith-based schools have seen unprecedented growth. If you’re full, everything is smooth sailing now, huh?
Unlikely. The reality is that many schools are just now realizing the impact of the rapid intake of so many new families. As they’ve faced these new challenges, many are wondering if perhaps “full” isn’t the goal after all.
In this four-part blog series, The Pursuit of Healthy Enrollment, we’re going to challenge you to rethink your enrollment goals and prioritize healthy, not just full.
What’s Driving Families to Your School?
For decades, independent and faith-based schools have sought to attract more families by proactively taking their message to the market.
Pre-internet, their strategies included direct mail, newspaper and magazine ads, billboards, TV, radio, and community events. The rise of the internet opened new channels, such as websites, search engines, social media, email marketing, and texting. Around the corner, we’ll likely see virtual and augmented reality playing a larger role in school marketing.
All of these marketing strategies pull families into schools. We reach into the marketplace, attempt to connect with qualified families, and invite them into what we’re doing. Market forces, however, push families to schools.
Families are unhappy with their current situation and want a change. In most cases, it’s not that your school’s value proposition is irresistibly compelling, but rather conditions at another school are just intolerably bad.
Market forces can take many forms: remote learning, mask mandates, educational content, policy changes, a nearby school closing down, a major corporation coming to town, etc.
Let’s connect this to what is currently happening with enrollment at your school.
For many, the COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst that drove unprecedented demand from families that otherwise had not considered independent or faith-based schools. The interest came quickly, and it was nearly overwhelming. Grade after grade filled up, and the wait pools got deeper. And with this wave of interest, there were new challenges schools faced.
What exactly were some of the motivations that drove families by the SUV-load to make a switch?
Many families during the pandemic weren’t necessarily looking to make a change; they were compelled to do so. The uptick in interest had less to do with a school’s brilliant promotion than it did with the family’s growing discontent.
Almost three years later, many schools remain full because circumstances then were that bad — not because the school was that good. Yes, they had to be ready to receive and process interest, but these schools weren’t really doing anything different from what they were doing before.
Schools are now tasked with changing perception.
Recently-enrolled families must see schools as more than just an airport lounge where they can hang out while the plane undergoes maintenance. Families need to see your school as their new home.