Open houses and other admissions events aren’t just for fall anymore. What started as a trend a few years ago has become a spring ritual for many schools that offer rolling admissions.
Spring is a great time to engage prospective families. In fact, our research clearly shows that more families look at independent schools in the spring than in the fall.
Spring admissions events are a key part of what should be a robust year-round admissions strategy for your school. And though the goal is the same — attract and enroll great students and families — spring events should be treated differently than your fall events.
Spring Admissions Events vs. Fall Admissions Events
In most cases, spring admissions events don’t draw the crowds that may flock to your school for fall events. Consider spring to be a season to foster one-on-one engagement, which allows you and your team to create more intimate programs that make deeper connections with prospects. You’ll know what makes your prospects tick to create a more authentic and indelible experience with your school.
- Is a prospect a baseball or softball fanatic? Invite the student to a game to hang out with the JV team while the varsity takes the field. Introduce the student’s parents to your best parent ambassador in the stands with complimentary spirit wear.
- Does your Lower School have a capstone STEAM event in the spring? That’s the perfect time to invite the prospective student who loves science, technology, engineering, art or math.
- Budding musicians can attend spring recitals and see the culmination of how your students and faculty work together.
- Student leaders might enjoy attending a student government meeting or elections for next year’s school president, or
- Invite prospects to attend alumni or student panels during Reunion Weekend — no better way to see the stellar graduates that your school produces.
Many schools bill spring events as open houses, Walk-in Wednesdays, Tour Tuesdays, etc. Why not also leverage what’s going on at your school to ramp up efforts and engage prospects more deeply?
- Try an Art Night centered on the art exhibitions of your current students. Ask art faculty and upper-class art students to work with prospective students on a fun project while parents tour the exhibit with your head of school.
- Run a sports clinic on a Saturday with your team and coaches to highlight a spring sport, complete with your mascot, athletic wear swag and a tour of what could be the prospective student’s locker room or playing field.
- Buy a block of tickets for your school’s spring musical and invite prospects to attend the show. Have your student and parent ambassadors ready to talk to them at intermission with a complimentary soft drink or bottle of water.
- Does your school do a spring tradition beloved by your students? This might be just the event to invite a handful of prospects to.
- Reach out to your best former student tour guides/student leaders who are now at college. Would they be willing to come to school in late May once college is out for “Coffee with Recent Graduates”? Prospects will love hearing from young alumni who are thriving in college because of the education they received at your school.
- What about camps if your school offers them? Welcoming parents with coffee at camp drop-off for the start of each session or an ice cream bar at the end of the week’s session for parents and campers are great ways to keep the conversation going in the summer.
Is Your Admissions Office Ready?
Chances are, you’ll hear this when the Admissions Office phone rings: “I know that it’s probably too late, but I thought I would call anyway. Are there any spots for next fall?”
Be ready for questions on the phone, in email and in person at your events about space, application timing, extended deadlines and more. Have scripts ready for your team and volunteers, so everyone is sharing the same answers.
From a human capital standpoint, gearing up for a busy spring admissions season is challenging. Your staff just came off a very busy fall season and application reviews. You are now in the throes of new student events for families who just accepted.
Getting a second wind to connect with spring prospects is crucial, though. Pull out your best pep talk and be creative in finding ways to motivate your team over the finish line. Bring in doughnuts/coffee, lunch, whatever. Ask your head of school to write personal “way to go” notes to your team. Have goofy trivia contests (with prizes) to start the week. Keeping people motivated and “thinking fall” in spring is key.
Don’t forget these crucial areas, too:
- Are your materials ready to go?
- Are your student and parent volunteer tour guides ready for the spring season?
- What spring class projects are going on that will show well and engage classroom visitors?
- What is your backup plan for class visits/tours in May if your senior class is away on an internship program?
Different Season, Same Advertising Plan
What works for marketing fall events, works for spring events. Leverage every tool you have as your budget allows: social media, word of mouth, print and broadcast ads, direct-mail, email campaigns and outdoor billboards. A banner or sign at your school’s entrance is often a cost-effective way to drive traffic, especially if you have a drop-in tour time throughout the summer.
Be sure to have a plan for the prospects who won’t call or attend an event but who are looking at you on your website. Have a plan to capture these prospects with request-only content they will want to read about on your website. Include links to sign-up forms for all your spring admissions events on your admissions page.
The Financial Aid Dilemma
Yes, spring admissions events attract families getting a head start on next fall’s admissions season. But the reality is that many families looking at you in the spring are looking to enroll for the coming September, and they may need financial aid. This is the big disadvantage of a spring admissions event: Families are looking at you but, typically, your financial aid budget already has been distributed.
Schools might consider saving some financial aid dollars, if possible, for spring applicants. Regardless, it is important that you be upfront with families about the availability of financial aid.
Spring events often attract public school families who recently have made the decision that they want to explore the independent school option. Perhaps they’ve decided that class size has proven too big, or the gender balance in the class isn’t what they want, or that their student needs more individualized instruction. Whatever the reason, be sure to show the value-add of your program. Consider developing a page on your website that is tied into admissions. Create handouts that highlight what is free with tuition, whether it’s lunch, afterschool clubs, early drop-off and more.
Spring can be a great time to share your school’s message and unique offerings to prospects ready to be wooed. With careful planning, spring admissions season can help grow your fall enrollment.
How can Kalix help you this spring, summer and next fall? Contact us.
Sarah Achenbach is Director of Communications for Kalix Marketing.