Communicate Early, Enroll Quickly, and Streamline the Process for Families
Over the past year, my smart watch has told me that it’s time to stand up thousands of times. Sometimes it tells me to move a little more or congratulates me on a good activity day. My health and activity metrics are tied to three circles on my watch.
As I’ve worked with schools, I’ve started to think about how school health is like those personal health metrics in a lot of ways. But, instead of measuring standing, exercising, or moving, when I evaluate the health of a school, I look at three things:
Admissions and inquiry funnel
Each affects the other and improves the overall health of the school, but all three have unique qualities that require individual strategies for full optimization of the school’s well-being. Early enrollment is the first ring of the three – the core, the foundation, the bedrock.
Your early enrollment mission – if you should choose to accept it
Early enrollment leaves nothing up to chance. It is an art and a science, combining data, marketing, and communication. Your goals are deceptively simple:
- Using YOY re-enrollment analysis by grade level, predict the number of open seats by grade and/or classroom after current families re-enroll. Finish this analysis by the first grading period in the fall.
- Begin segmented marketing by grade level(s) to prospective families over the fall/winter, increasing your inquiry funnel and admissions application pipeline.
- Conduct outreach to current families and increase re-enrollment velocity, achieving your re-enrollment goals by the start of Q2 each year (around March 31).
- Focus the entirety of your admissions and school marketing efforts on closing any remaining enrollment gaps to meet budget before fiscal year end.
Early enrollment is vitally important to providing priorities to your marketing and communication staff and giving the admissions office clear directives about which families to target and when. Retaining current families is as important to school health as recruiting new ones. It’s also less expensive to keep a family than it is to market your school to prospects.
How to increase early enrollment velocity, or “let’s get this done faster and easier”
Start with the right tools. You’ll want a way to survey current families throughout the school year to get a pulse check on everything from academics to school communications. You also need a solution to re-enroll families at-will or using continuous re-enrollment. Ideally, they can also setup next year’s tuition payment plan at the same time they re-enroll. (For more on this, contact us here and we’ll walk you through it.) The right solutions will provide efficiency that pays dividends later. More on this soon.
Establish a year-round communications plan to current families with relationship building as the core objective. This can be a high-level or detailed plan, but some key milestones should be:
- At least two opportunities for parent feedback throughout the school year (i.e., parent surveys)
- Regular, personal check-ins from the admissions and enrollment office each semester and throughout the summer
- Teacher roundtables to assess at-risk students and/or families; develop action plans for establishing relationships and better day-to-day experiences for their student and their families
- Mobilizing parent volunteer team (or parent ambassador committee) to assist with re-enrollment outreach, marketing, or grade level family temp checks
Opening re-enrollment should be like launching a marketing campaign, with social media posts (or ads) ready to go to current families, email campaigns to current families, and incentives for re-enrolling by a certain deadline.
- Overcommunicate to current families about re-enrollment deadlines. Parents will procrastinate until the last minute so plan your communications accordingly. Send emails and text reminders to parents shortly before all deadlines to increase buy-in.
- Increase the health of your fiscal forecasting by collecting the application, enrollment, and/or down payment fee online and remitting it to your school’s bank account in an online process versus allowing cash or check payments.
Mind the (enrollment) gap
As your final re-enrollment deadline draws near and/or you have a percentage of students re-enrolling that is close to goal, it’s time to evaluate overall attrition and focus on closing the remaining enrollment gaps with potential families in your pipeline.
- Conduct exit surveys with departing families when possible to develop the best possible data YOY for enrollment and re-enrollment projections. It’s also helpful for developing attrition risk profiles.
- Examine your financial aid outlook. What is your total financial aid availability compared to the average award per student? Begin to reach out to admitted but unenrolled families in your pipeline that may qualify if you have aid still available.
- If you have many open seats in key “feeder” grade levels (PK-1, grade 5, grade 8 for K-12 schools, grade 9-10 for 9-12 schools), consider targeted social media ad campaigns. If you have financial aid still available, use authentic, low-key language to communicate messages around affordability and ease-of-application.
- Create the easiest path forward for new families in the key months between school year end and fiscal year end. Streamline your application and enrollment experience so that prospective parents move quickly through the funnel and enrolling is not a 20-step, 50-page packet nightmare.
- Roll out the red carpet for returning and new families throughout the summer to establish and reaffirm relationships. Provide opportunities for networking between families and students and be sure key members of the school are reaching out personally and periodically.
Better data, regular communication, and personal touchpoints are the drivers of success in almost every area of K-12 strategic growth. Your attrition rates will go down, early enrollment velocity and percentages will go up, and the strength of your admissions funnel will rise. The health of your school is vitally important and as you focus on these areas, you’ll close your school health rings more frequently – and that’s always so rewarding.