Not every event in your school will be labeled as an “admissions event” but every event your school has is an opportunity to showcase the school and it’s students. How do events just for current families fall under admissions? Retention. Your school is up and running for a reason and students are excited for it’s great program, the price, location, etc. But the road doesn’t end there. Admissions is a careful balance of establishing and maintaining a genuine relationship with each family that comes in the door and events are a convenient way to maintain those links.
I like to think of admissions as shooting an arrow. You nock the arrow, shoot, and wait to hit your target. Even if you are confident your arrow is headed for the bullseye, you still must follow through with the motions and keep your bow in the correct position. I think of the final target in admissions as graduation from the program. Even students we think are headed on the right course, it is good practice to follow through and maintain a good relationship so you can be aware of their enrollment intentions.
Retention Events to Target High Risk Ages
At Holy Child Academy, we lost a lot of students between Pre-K and Kindergarten. We found families were not seeing reasons to justify the cost of private/independent education. I organized an event to target out currently enrolled families to feel like part of the community, feel appreciated at the school, and see not only how much their children were learning, but how much they enjoyed being in the school. At the end of the year there is an annual Early Childhood(EC) presentation, but after re-enrollment has passed. I decided to host an “Elf on the Shelf Door Opening Ceremony” for the EC students and families. The event was really to dazzle parents and make them feel that our school was a “luxury brand” in a quick early morning coffee break. Before drop-off I set up a hot cocoa and coffee bar with homemade hot cocoa with all the fixin’s, homemade marshmallows, homemade flavored cream cheese, and bagels for parents to enjoy while students put their things away and arrived for the event.
I made a tiny little elf door for the elves to come through with a special letter from Santa (I created a special wax seal and stationary for authenticity. One 3rd grader said to our principal, “Ms. Wood, this is real. You can’t fake letters this nice”). One of our older students showed off his reading and public speaking skills by reading The Elf on the Shelf to the group. After we served espresso-sized cups of cocoa to the children while parents said their goodbyes and headed off to work. The response was fantastic. Parents were so impressed and raved about the event into the New Year.
Events for Currently Enrolled Families
They are the events that families attend out of obligation, the annual Christmas concert, a class coffee, back to school night, etc. These events are so important from an admissions standpoint. Parents know that their children are receiving a top-notch education, but they can’t be in our classrooms being reminded of that each day. These events provide opportunities to create special touches that go above and beyond your average concert and remind parents why they pay the price of a private independent education.
T’was the Night of the Concert
Allow me to give a small example. It’s a busy, cold Thursday night the middle of December and it’s the night of the winter concert. Parents are just getting home from work, ordering pizza while getting their child ready for the concert. Are the shirts ironed? Do they need to be there early? What’s parking going to be like? Of course parents are excited to see their child perform, but they really need to finish the Christmas shopping before their work party next week. It’s a busy time of year for everyone. They finally get to the school and parking is crazy. The lobby is packed and people are blocking the way to the auditorium because the coffee table is in a terrible spot. I’m sure you’ve been in a situation like that and know the frustration.
We do not want our families feeling frustrated at our events! We want them to be constantly impressed by how smoothly everything runs. We want them to stay and socialize and become part of the community. Make these events something to remind parents that not only are their children getting a wonderful educational experience, but the whole family is appreciated. The admissions team needs to be a constant presence to ensure these are events that make parents say “that wasn’t the case at my school! You should check it out,” or “we had a great time at the class coffee, they always serve the best cookies! Does your school do that?” Not all schools have event coordinators, or a team of volunteers to lend an extra hand at these events. I think the best way to make sure things are being done in a way that is beneficial to the admissions office is for the admissions office to always lend a hand, establish a good working relationship with event teams, and be a topic in event conversation.