“School choice” goes far beyond the idea of parents just picking a group of buildings from a selection of schools in their hometowns. It has grown into an entire movement, replete with government programs and incentives—a giant, intricate web of factors and new realities.
Between magnet schools, charter schools, homeschooling, vouchers, tax credits, education savings accounts (ESAs), and other programs, school admissions have become increasingly more competitive. That brings a new thread of competition for schools as they vie for the best talent to join their future graduating classes.
Here are five ways you can maximize your school’s competitive edge in admissions:
1. Identify the school’s USPs
Through discussions with your faculty and leadership teams and consultation with your school’s founding literature, clearly identify keywords and unique selling proposition that set your school apart. You then have to weave these into the story you tell prospective families when they come to see you. Stories that resonate always attract applications.
2. Build a follow-up system
Many schools are too passive when it comes to following up with recent visitors. As competition becomes more fierce, you can’t rely on visitors converting themselves into applicants; you need to establish a pro-active system of contact to try to bring them in. Use this system as a way of learning what’s stopping those who don’t choose to apply. It could be costs, or facilities, or environment—things you can work on to improve your appeal.
3. Capture and analyze data
This may seem laborious and even unnecessary to some, but once you capture the data and study it, you’ll find it quite illuminating. Use tools like Google Analytics to get breakdowns of data over any time period you want. Data on your applicant and visitor demographics, conversion rates, and will help more accurately guide you to better marketing and promotion strategies in your area and beyond.
4. Apply the pressure
Assuming you give school tours to visitors, you should coordinate with your division heads to work out optimal times for tours when the best of the school will be on display. Visitors like to see sports on the fields, experiments in the labs, rehearsals in the theaters, power tool whirring in the shop. All these things together form an inspiring vision of action and success.
As that feeling grows, you can add a sense of urgency by tightening deadlines, reminding parents of how competitive placement is, and just how much everyone wants to be in this community.
5. Update your media
While brochures are important and integral in your marketing campaigns, if you’re relying on only brochures, then you’re going to fall behind in the race for quality admissions. The fact is that parents now want to view as much as possible in as little time as possible, which means you need to update your advertising and informational media to include videos.
Create a definitive school introduction of no more than three minutes, accompanied by a collection of “shorts,” which should be under one minute each. This boosts your brand, helps parents visualize their kids in your community, and generally works better to inspire action from potential applicants. The key is to stay consistent with your other marketing materials.