You’ve planned your fall admissions events to showcase all that your school offers. But are you highlighting what prospective students and parents really want to see when they step on your campus? This second post in our two-part series by Kalix admissions and enrollment expert, Maureen Cannon, walks you through how to create events that resonate with students and parents to hit all the high points and heartstrings.
Visits to your school by prospective students and their family matter more than ever. Post-COVID-19, touring a school and attending a visit opportunity (open house, shadow day, etc.) is returning to the forefront of importance to your prospects.
Yes, your digital footprint matters, on your website and social media, but prospective families want to “feel and touch the school.” Both parents and students want to be able to visit campuses and experience a myriad of events so they “see themselves” there. Don’t shy away from on-campus visit activities.
Know Your Audiences
It’s important to remember your audiences for these events. Traditional events like open houses, coffees, and tours are as important as ever for the parents. They like meeting school leaders, touring and hearing about a variety of programs.
Interactive opportunities like shadow/visit days or program-specific events where your school showcases an innovation lab or makerspace, connect more with students. They want to meet students and see first-hand the kind of community they are joining. Observing student panels, attending athletic or arts events, etc. can also help students make that important decision to attend your school.
To make sure each of these audience’s’ visits are memorable and reflective of the value of your school, plan carefully.
Checklist for More Strategic Admissions Events for Students
- Shadow/Visit Days: Make sure faculty know when to expect guests and classrooms are clean; have enough seats for the guests; pair students with school ambassadors that share similar interests.
- Entrance ways should have signs greeting prospective families as they drive on your campus. Names on parking spaces are a nice touch.
- What will visitors see on their walk to the admission office? Check it out a few days before the visit and make sure it’s the impression you want to make.
- Morning announcements should welcome the guests every morning (first name only).
- If they are athletes, make sure they have an opportunity to talk with coaches or players or both before the day ends.
- Schedule events that offer other ways for prospective students to see the school and engage with faculty and students.
- Host a STEM day or some other kind of interactive event for students who might be interested.
- Art? Have the art teachers host a paint-day or something similar.
- Invite students interested in performing arts to a fall production or a music concert.
- Let Athletes connect with athletics directors and coaches and attend sporting events so they can see how the teams interact with each other.
- Shadow days are critical to this age group. They are looking for a place to belong that will allow them to be their authentic self.
- Schedule events for other ways for them to see the school and engage with faculty and students (see above ideas for high school events).
- Make sure that every detail of the visit is addressed like how/and with whom does the visitor go to lunch. Dealing with a crowded lunchroom can be nerve-wracking to a rising middle school student. Make sure every detail of these non-classroom experiences are locked down and seamless.
It’s all about the play, the teachers and how learning is “fun.” Make sure that these younger prospects still get some kind of visit opportunity, even if it is a half-day visit. This is a perfect opportunity to schedule hands-on, interactive -specific events catering to these children (playdates, buddy days, etc).
Kids want to make sure they will have fun learning and not be stuck in desks all day.
- It’s all about the play, the teachers and how learning is “fun.” Make sure that these younger prospects still get some kind of visit opportunity, even if it is a half-day visit. This is a perfect opportunity to schedule hands-on, interactive -specific events catering to these children (playdates, buddy days, etc).
- Kids want to make sure they will have fun learning and not be stuck in desks all day.
Another important, albeit small touch schools should know is that students love swag. What giveaway do they receive each time they visit? Make sure they take home memorabilia that keeps your school top of mind during the months-long recruitment cycle. As simple as this sounds, this is among the most critical touches an admissions office can offer.
Checklist for More Strategic Admissions Events for Parents
- To hear from a member of the school leadership team and admissions office.
- A guide/checklist to know all the key admissions dates and deadlines, information on financial aid, etc. Make sure this is also digital (and perhaps part of your email signature). This information needs to be easily accessible.
- To hear from your current parents. Consider a parent panel during the course of the admissions cycle
- To see the school “live and in action,” which means tours during the school day or even at the end of the day. At my prior school, the afternoon tours were a huge hit because families (middle and high school prospects) saw the school buzzing and alive; teachers were still in classrooms; after school activities were underway. Afternoon tours are a visit option I highly recommend.
- Value-added aspects of the school. What will they get from your school, tangible and intangible, when they invest in their child/children and pay tuition?
- Attention! Parents these days have many, many questions. Be prepared to communicate with them when they visit your school and promptly when they email and call. Holiday cards and post-visit day notes are a special touch that shows parents and students schools care they were on campus. They also serve as a keep-sake during the admissions cycle.
Parents are coming to your admissions events with their own internal checklists, word-of-mouth “reviews” from neighbors, family members and friends, and even a few actual checklists like the following. It’s worth reading these and making sure your tour guides and any student and parent ambassadors are prepared for these types of questions:
- School Visit Checklist from greatschools.org
- 9 Questions to Help You Learn More on a High School Tour, also by greatschools.org
- And, 13 things you must look for during a secondary school visit | TheSchoolRun.
Missed the first in our two-part series on Admissions Event? Read it here.
If you are looking for guidance or consulting, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. WIth more than 20 years of educational marketing experience and recruitment, retention expertise, I can help you improve the experience for your families.
Want more information on why events need to be resurrected post-pandemic? Please join me for an AISAP presentation on Friday, November 10, 2:00-3:00 p.m EST. Let’s keep the ideas flowing and the conversation going.