School Enrollment 101: 3 Steps to Rethink Recruitment
As a school or district administrator, you know that bringing new students in each year is essential to the survival of your school. Higher enrollment brings in more funding and adds more talents and abilities to the student body. However, you’re likely already swamped with your regular duties and responsibilities, so an easy to manage process that can be replicated over and over again is the best way to tackle the challenge. Here are our three essential steps to streamlining your enrollment process.
Step 1: Rethink Your Enrollment Strategy
An effective enrollment strategy tells your story in a compelling and authentic way, provides opportunities for others to recommend your school, and employs a method of connection that accounts for the needs of its audience.
What’s your story? Forgetting to focus on branding is one of the biggest pitfalls a school can make when formulating an enrollment strategy. Take the time to sit down and identify your school’s key characteristics and milestones. Then, begin weaving together your narrative (or snag a creative writing teacher to give you a hand!). Highlight those events and attributes that students can connect with. Keep it honest – today’s kids can see through a lot of bluster! Find ways to repeat your story in different ways throughout the process, whether in the text of your promotional materials and web content or in the thoughtful way you treat those who express interest in what you have to offer (and those who don’t!). To quote the almost-Shakespearean advice of the Beach Boys: “Be true to your school!”
Beach Boys Image via Biography
Tell the story of your school truthfully in order to make authentic connections.
Telling your own story is important, but finding others to tell your story for you will be even more effective. Ask current and former families in your school and even staff to give testimonials of their experience. Written excerpts can feature prominently on your social media, website, and print marketing materials.
Video testimonials are easy to share on your socials and can have a big impact on the viewer. There’s something powerful about seeing a story being told instead of just reading it. You can even film inside the school to give an authentic feel to the video.
Telling your story and praise from others is necessary, but even more essential to the enrollment process is having a system in place that makes the actual nuts and bolts of the journey work together smoothly. Since just about everyone these days has access to a smartphone, it makes sense to have an enrollment process that can be completed online.
If your district utilizes a Student Information System or SIS, the tools to go virtual may already be in your possession. Programs like PowerSchool SIS (Enrollment (add-on or standalone), Enrollment Express (integrated)) and GradeLink (EnrollMe(add-on)) include the ability to have enrollment information entered online on your website and sent directly to your student information system. This makes it possible for prospective students and parents to provide all the necessary enrollment data you require without you having to lift a finger.
If your school doesn’t have the budget for one of those systems, you can still create your own form on your website that enables students to complete most of the enrollment process online. Unless you have a proficient coder on your IT staff, this option may still require you to manually enter each student’s data into your system.
When doing it yourself, however, you must take steps to ensure the security of the information you are asking people to send. We recommend enabling reCaptcha v3 and customizing your field input recognition settings to only accept data that follows the requested format (10 digit phone numbers, MM/DD/YYYY birthdates, etc.). Doing so helps to prevent hackers from entering random information in an attempt to find a weakness. You must also ensure that your site utilizes end to end SSL (or TSL) encryption. You can purchase a security certificate from a Certificate Authority or CA. Many web hosting services already include the certificate in their monthly rates, so double-check with your host if you’re unsure.
Because information security is so important, especially in today’s current climate, always verify the security of your form and site with a trusted expert before you go live. Never request sensitive information from a prospective student online unless you are 100% certain it will be safe. Building back your brand after a security breach is a long and arduous process, so it’s best to take steps to avoid it in the first place!
One more thing to consider about the mobile experience - for some of the families in your area, they may only have internet access at home via a smartphone or tablet. To make sure they're not turned off by the experience and are able to complete the enrollment process successfully, take the time to customize the mobile viewing experience, too (not just the desktop default!).
Step 2: Reach Out In Print
Once the technical pieces of your enrollment strategy are ready to go, it’s time to spread the word. You’ll want to reach out to prospective students in their home (with direct mail), in everyday life (with flyers, banners, and yard signs), and on their way to an enrollment event (with yard signs and banners).
EDDM Postcard Design via MyCreativeShop
Direct Mail or Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) is an incredibly effective and budget-friendly promotional tool that allows you to select your audience based on your own specific location and demographic criteria. You can then send your custom-designed postcard to those addresses that are in your district, neighborhood, or other nearby areas that may be eligible for open enrollment. When you create your own school EDDM postcard with your story in mind, be sure that your call to action (CTA) is clear and tells them why they should act. Include the URL or QR code that leads to your enrollment page or website to ensure they don’t get lost along the way.
MyCreativeShop has a variety of school EDDM and direct mail postcard templates that can be easily customized to meet your needs. We also offer an all-in-one direct mail service that takes you from designed to sent in just a few clicks, streamlining the process even more!
…Share the Need
Designs via MyCreativeShop
Spreading the word to your community about why they should enroll their children in your school requires at least a little legwork. You can share the details of how to get signed up by creating your own custom school flyers, school yard signs, and school banners and hanging/placing them all over town (with permission, of course!). Make sure to include dates and deadlines, along with the web address they need to visit to kick off the process. If you’ll be hosting an in-person event, share that information as well. Good communication is essential if you want to have a successful enrollment season!
MyCreativeShop’s customizable school template offerings include a plethora of flyers, banners, yard signs, and more to get you started. We also offer competitive print services for a one-stop-shop experience!
For those inevitable IRL registration or school tour sessions, you can cut down on a lot of confusion by creating your own custom signage to direct both vehicle and foot traffic. Custom school yard signs lining the boulevard can do wonders when it comes to pointing people to the right parking lot or door, or simply ensuring they know what time to arrive. Smartly-designed school banners are also excellent at sharing the event date, time, and location but are even more useful when used to identify locations and “stations” inside the school building.
Make sure you include the families of your current students in your promotions. Don’t take for granted that younger siblings will automatically follow in their brothers’ or sisters’ footsteps. Being overlooked is never a good way to start off a relationship!
Step 3: Build the Relationship
Speaking of relationships, it’s essential that you don’t lose sight of the students as individuals as you go through this process. Continue the conversation after that initial interaction (campus visit, information request, enrollment, etc.) and stay connected by giving them something tangible to hold on to, sharing the ongoing story, and sending out customized reminders with important reminders and dates. When you invest in the relationship you have with your students and their families, you are building up your greatest assets – happy “customers!”
…Something to Hold On to
Design via MyCreativeShop
When a prospective student enrolls or visits your school, send him or her home with something to remember you by. Customize your own school pocket folders to wrap up supply lists, class schedules, and locker assignments or create a unique school spirit sticker that students can proudly display on their binders or laptops. You may even want to send your students home with a vibrant school poster for their wall. Whatever you choose to hand out, make sure it continues to tell your story!
Designs via MyCreativeShop
…Share the Story
Newsletter Design via MyCreativeShop
Continue building your relationship with your current and prospective students and their families by sending out regular newsletters. Include upcoming events and summaries of recent activities, but make sure that everything you write and share still tells your story and lines up with your branding. Starting with a school newsletter template and making it your own enables you to create a consistent product every time. Encourage staff and students to submit articles, photos, and artwork for each issue.
…Send a Reminder
Postcard Design by MyCreativeShop
Complete the trifecta of relationship-building by sending out follow-up and reminder postcards to existing and prospective students. For existing students, send out reminders about summer activities and sign-up deadlines. Newcomers will appreciate back to school night notifications and enrollment details. Sports tryout dates and physical reminders are helpful for all students. Get a head start on the design process by beginning with one of our customizable school postcard templates.
MyCreativeShop’s all-in-one direct mail service enables you to easily design and mail your custom postcards to your existing mailing list. Simply choose your template, upload your mailing list, and you’re ready to go!
Tell Your Story!
In the end, the process of attracting and recruiting new students is no different than crafting a brand strategy. It all comes down to building a strong foundation, telling your story – well – to the right people, and continuing to do so in every future interaction.
Being intentional about every aspect of the process will keep you on the right track. Starting your journey with MyCreativeShop allows you to design, print, and mail all the materials you need in one place – so get it done!