Updated: Jan 27
Are you facing challenges addressing prospective families as they share their general perceptions of private education? Well, you are not alone. The education marketplace is undergoing huge shifts, including addressing more families who have long relied on public schools for their kids.
So, how should the offices of admission and marketing, in particular, approach the common myths, misunderstandings, or false perceptions floating around out there? Well, first and foremost the content and responses should be consistent, documented, and planned. I would strongly recommend creating an ongoing list of common questions or statements and then train your team to respond effectively. Then ensure this type of messaging and positive response is applied to marketing platforms whenever it is applicable.
Here are some ways to communicate positively with prospective families.
Private Independent Day & Boarding Schools:
Private schools are beyond our financial reach. "Yes, we understand the significance of this investment. So let's talk directly about your investment and what you can expect from our school." (Cite 3 key benefits of your school and be prepared to back it up with facts.)
Private schools are for the elite only. "We get it. In fact, private schools nationwide are making a notable effort to shift this misunderstanding. In the case of our school, ___% receive financial assistance and students come from a wide socioeconomic spectrum . Let's discuss how we could make an education here be more accessible and reachable for your family." (Be prepared to align them on tour or by phone with students/families).
Private schools are not a good fit because of our racial background. "Allow me to be fully transparent about our school's enrollment and our commitment to diversity. First, let me give you some of our current diversity statistics, then let's talk about our academic approach, multicultural events, clubs, and activities, and last we can discuss some specific student experiences."
Private schools offer low ROI for a huge investment. "You are quite right. It is a significant investment, but one that can reap huge dividends. Let's talk about your priorities and how our school could make a life difference for your son/daughter. (Address confidence, life skills, college matriculation, better study habits, friendships, values, time management, leadership, etc. based on their expectations and show data to demonstrate the facts. Check EMA, ISM, TABS, AISAP, NAIS, and other associations for research and reports.
Parents shouldn't send their kids away to boarding schools. Some parents share comments from friends like "why would a parent send a child to a boarding school...is there something wrong at home?" To this, you can respond, "historically, it is interesting to see the various perspectives from the east coast and european families for instance, who might ask the reverse question - why wouldn't you send your child to a boarding school? They tend to know some of the benefits, such as: higher percentages attending college and grad school, better adaptation to college and adult life, higher paying careers, and more." (Check research done by EMA and TABS and prepare a simple fact sheet to share).
Private Military Schools:
Military schools are for military families only. "That is a common misunderstanding, but military schools are not restricted to service members or veterans. In fact, let me share parent professions and background facts with you..."
Military schools are only for students interested in enlistment. "Yes, we hear that all the time, so we totally understand why you might think that. However, military academies are actually for any student wishing to gain leadership, life skills, and a college preparatory education. Let me show you our matriculation data so you can see that actually only ___% enlist, ___% attend 4 year universities, and ___% attend community colleges or technical colleges."
Military schools will push my son to enlist. "As a parent, this is a concern; however, it is not our mission to promote enlistment in the military following high school graduation. In fact, we are firm believers in a college education and we strongly encourage a life of service, This can take many forms: community service, service to one's family and friends, civic engagement, and philanthropy. Upon admission, we do have some students openly interested in military service or admission to an ROTC university or one of the top service academies. We support these students with their aspirations and applications and we are proud of our excellent track record. (If the student holds this interest, ensure you cite students aligned with their current interests and showcase your track record).
Military schools are for troubled teens or kids in legal trouble. "This might have been true decades ago when people saw military schools as reform schools, so many people still think this today. However, with therapeutic and wilderness programs now out there, military schools/academies have gained the benefit of being more selective. Our school focuses on selecting mission-appropriate students who can benefit from structure, self-discipline, leadership training, and the college prep orientation of our school. We do not admit students with current (or past) legal issues."
Military schools are like boot camps. "Here, we do offer a strong emphasis on structure, motivation, and responsibility, but we are not a boot camp. We train our military officers to act more like coaches and mentors, rather than disciplinarians. We rely on our top student leaders to set the tone, provide a strong example, and help us with the governance of the campus."
Military schools are subsidized by the military or they are free. "Only charter schools and public schools are free from tuition, but private military schools are typically nonprofits and rely on tuition income to cover 80-90% of their expenses. We are not affiliated with any governmental or military agencies to subsidize our costs. We do however, make every effort to assist families through our financial assistance and resource programs."
Military schools give aid to students with deficient grades or those with bad citizenship records. "We wish we could say this is the case, but our highest priority must be for returning students and the highest caliber of newly admitted students. In some cases, we ask families to reapply after the student has improved his/her grades and/or citizenship, but typically the financial aid packages are more limited at the start. "
Military schools can be places where hazing, harassment, or bullying takes place. "We understand your concerns. As you know, no school, public or private, is immune to these types of issues, but our school is far more vigilant than most independent schools. In fact, please do let me share our dismissal track record for these types of offenses, our commandant's training protocols and philosophy, and our educational counseling programs that address these issues."
Note: The suggestions here are rough recommendations and should be reviewed and adjusted by the executive office, senior administrators, and/or your legal counsel to ensure compliance with your school policies and procedures.
Marketing Tips: Share commonly asked questions on your website, develop blogs and publicity to address some of these topics, use SEM text ads to call out key info, respond quickly to comments on social media to dispel myths, and promote positive reviews.
Need Staff Training or Communications Support? Need some help with Staff Training Workshops or Communications to address some of these misunderstandings or perceptions? Or perhaps, you have another project or challenge you wish to address. Check out our services for more information.
Aperture Advisory Associates is here to help. Benefit and learn from a former Director of Admissions & Marketing with over 15 years of experience in private boarding and day schools. Affordable fees. Free Consultation.