As you look at a new school year starting, your enrollment management team is finally able to take a breath and “relax”. Unless you are a school with locked-in enrollment numbers by the spring, you have hard at work all summer long, emailing, calling, and following up with those last-minute families who might enroll in the fall. While some of you with open enrollment may continue to see a few late-comers, for the most part, your admissions team finally gets to experience “summer”.
As you evaluate your enrollment status, here are few things to consider. First, let’s take a look back.
- Assess your Advertising: did that magazine ad drive anyone to your school? Did your radio…direct mail…social media campaign impact your numbers? While there are some difficulties in assessing some of the effectiveness of each one, you should at least acknowledge if something is worth doing for next year. Now is the time to evaluate, especially if you can provide any hard data to support your decision. Inevitably, a board member will approach you next spring wondering “why aren’t we doing that radio campaign again like we did last year? I thought that was brilliant!” If it didn’t work, then you’ll want data to show said board member.
- Self-Evaluation: take some time to evaluate yourself and your team. Where did you work from a place of strength? Where could you reallocate resources? Where do you need to spend more time? Less time? Hopefully your team can have an honest assessment so you don’t just start the treadmill over again in a few months without looking for ways to improve.
- Survey Says: consider reaching out to your new families and surveying them about their enrollment experience. Ask them about how they heard about you. Ask them to evaluate your admissions process. Ask them to give you candid feedback about your campus: appearance, communication, processes, etc. You can certainly do the same to your returning families, but these new families have the freshest eyes to see things most clearly.
- Retreat: if possible, get away from the office for at least one day for an off-site retreat (two days or more would allow you time to go even deeper). If you haven’t done any self-evaluation, this is the place to do it. But this is also a time to spend some moments reflecting with gratitude for your new families. Before you get too critical about processes, and before the onslaught of next fall’s admissions season begins, take time to be thankful for who came your way this year. You might even take a few minutes to write a few hand-written cards to some of your new families. Have some fun together and do some team development work.
- Plan Quarterly: look at the new 3 months. If you are reading this in August, pretty much examine your school calendar, the national calendar (holidays, cultural rhythms, etc.), and your community/city calendar and see what is ahead. This will likely take you to Thanksgiving, so if you need to go ahead and plan through Christmas break, do so. Included in this timeframe is likely the start of next year’s enrollment season. It may begin with re-enrollment efforts in December or early in the new year (hint: don’t wait to start re-marketing to your families….that begins now!) Look at your social media planning calendar and know what’s ahead in the next few months and get a jump on scheduling some posts on Facebook or using a tool like Grum for scheduling Instagram posts. Here’s a free social media/marketing content planning calendar that has helped many.
- Mind the Gap: you should be able to have a hard count for each grade as you start the new year and see where the enrollment gaps are. This should give you real clear direction for next year. Is this year’s Kindergarten class small? While you certainly want to work hard at getting better Kinder numbers next year, you might also look at ways to grow next year’s 1st grade class so that you can set yourself up for a strong future. If you project Middle School to be down, then start concentrating your efforts now on developing a strategy for filling those seats.
Don’t get too busy now too look back and to look ahead.
I love to help schools with their marketing, especially at this time of in the school calendar. I have been helping one school this past year that saw a 16% increase and another school who told me yesterday that they are almost 25 students more than they thought they would have when the board set the budget last spring. I would love to help your school as well!
Contact me for a free phone consultation – I am eager to help!Buffer