Ramp Up Recruitment and Retention

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

Now, more than ever, the admission team must be strategic and be in a very high energy mode as they move through this challenging time.


Some private schools will flourish while others will falter, so just where will you be? Set your independent school apart through your own ingenuity, proven tactics, and strong teamwork.


Resources: ICEF, NAIS, Enrollhand, Enrollment Catalyst, Enrollment Management Association, and Brendan Schneider University, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

EMA Podcasts:


Methods to Ramp Up Recruitment:


Own your brand


  • Be Real - Make school messaging direct, authentic, and informative.

  • Be a Storyteller - Tell real stories about how your school is thriving.

  • Be a Thought Leader - Show vision, cohesive direction, and intention.


Create a Virtual Admission Center

  • Check out these dynamic virtual admissions centers:

  • Westover School and Pulaski Academy

  • Promote the web page through Facebook Ads, Streaming Platforms, and Emails News.


Know Your Competition and Market

  • Check Out the Competition - Create a list of key competitors with related data: location, annual enrollment, test scores, matriculation, special programs, tuition/room/board costs, and key messaging points.

  • Analyze Population Trends - Check out census data for population growth in your target locations. Check NAIS and other platforms for statistics.

  • Focus on Local and Regional - Associations and reliable publications predict a greater focus on regional and local markets.

  • Understand International Markets - For example, online will account for over 10% of education in China and the biggest segments are online K-12 and STEAM education.

  • Seek Out New Markets - Identify domestic niche markets and emerging international markets. Follow ICEF to find out more.


Define Your Audience

  • Drill Down into Demographics - Household income, male/female, parents/non-parents, students, and locations based on actual enrollments.

  • Lean into Hyper-targeting - Direct your message to specific niche audiences based on interests, behaviors, professions, and more.

  • Target on All Platforms - Hyper-targeting can be used on your Website landing pages, Social Media Ads, Google Ads, Blogs, and Email Newsletters. Read More at Go Daddy


Understand the Journey

  • Create Journey Conversion Funnels - On your site, make calls to action highly visible including: Call, Request Info, Apply, Chat, Email, and Schedule Appointments.

  • Encourage Shopping Behavior - Video Views, Review Sites, and Social Media.


Evaluate Your Admission Criteria

  • Refine your Admission Criteria - Plan on over-admissions to provide a cushion, but be careful to screen for major issues that can lead to high attrition.

  • Stick to Key Disqualifiers - Legal, Expulsions, Behavioral Issues, Psychiatric Diagnoses.


Get Your Team Moving

  • Set Individual and Collective Goals - Determine your goals for individuals and the team by reviewing historical data. Are you trying to match the previous year, planning for a decrease, or pushing to exceed last year's numbers?

  • Monitor Performance -Track team and individual performance for fall opening, fall rolling, and spring semester. Meet regularly to discuss performance.

  • Create Positive Teamwork - Continue to elevate the quality of all of the virtual experiences you are offering prospects for campus tours, interviews and consultations.


Methods to Ramp Up Retention:


Analyze and Interpret Data

  • Measure and Assess - Use data from your historical charts to identify goals for returning enrollments and prepare three forecasts: High, Moderate, Conservative.

  • Create a Retention Ranking System - In the ranking system, account for at least four possible family actions:

A. contract submitted with payment

B. contract received without payment

C. student and/or parent unsure if returning

D. both student/parent indicating they are definitely not planning to return.


  • Use Excel Charts or Graphs - Adjust return percentages with automatic formulas so you can view your return rate on an ongoing basis.

  • Define an Approach for Each Student - On your tracker, put in a column for the staff person assigned, along with a column for any contact notes.

  • Turn Things Around - Think about initial family expectations, what has transpired, and how you can assuage any current concerns.


Reach Out Strategically

  • Get Everyone Involved - Faculty and staff can help by doing their job extremely well, turning negatives into positives, celebrating student successes, promoting the next grade level, providing prompt and informative service, and by making personal connections with students and families.

  • Get Personal by Phone - Calls from people on campus can make a huge difference in enrollment numbers. Enlist Coaches, Teachers, Deans, Residential Life and others in specific outreach assignments and have them report back to add notes to retention trackers.

Take the Pulse with Surveys and Parent Teams:

  • Understand Perspectives - Take a hard look from various perspectives: parent, student, grandparents, agents, and guardians.

  • Conduct Surveys - Identify things that are going right, as well as the things your school needs to work on, then provide a recap in a "state of school" address.

  • Create a Parent Marketing Team - Stimulate exchange, referrals, reviews, and generate new marketing ideas.

Ignite New Incentives:

  • Create Incentives - Offer financial incentives for re-enrollment.

  • Pump Up the Pipeline - Develop financial incentives for continuation to a specific grade level to keep the pipeline strong.

  • Consider CEA - Make sure your contract is working for you rather than against you and include force majeure clauses. Learn Contract Tips


Keep Parents in the Know

  • Keep Families Informed - Roll out and embed messaging to showcase your school as a welcoming, safe, and healthy place for students.

  • Communicate Backup Plans - Provide accurate information on a scheduled basis or on a website hub.

  • Showcase New Programs - Ensure families know about about any new offerings.


Create Readiness for Registration:

  • Make Registration a Retention Experience - Strong presentations, optional workshops for families on key topics, question and answer sessions, expedited check-in.

  • Keep it Simple and Stress-Free for Families - Prepare a simple video to walk families through the registration steps and post on Facebook and your website.


Elevate Events to Inform and Excite

  • Host Step-Up Events - Tell the story to students so they know what happens at each grade level through fun events, Q and A sessions, and college counseling workshops.

  • Offer "Coffee with the Head" - Tell inspiring stories, share the vision, and provide key information and updates.

  • Make Virtual Events Public - Open up sports, parades, concerts, plays, and art exhibitions to families and your community.


Create Calm in Communications:

  • Stay Connected in the Summer - Send out email newsletters against an annual communications plan, including topics such as: Summer Reading Lists, College Visits, Healthy Habits, Reopening Plans, and Registration.

  • Tell Success Stories - Provide value based stories on all platforms about distance learning, how lessons on Covid-19 have been incorporated, how students are becoming more resilient, exercising greater leadership, becoming more independent, expanding technology skills, and becoming more compassionate.

  • Express Appreciation - Every touch should reflect appreciation: registration letters, online forms, meetings, and personal calls. Consider sending personal postcards, thank you notes, and branded gifts.

  • Be Clear - Make all communications calm, clear, consistent, and accurate.


Make Smart Marketing Moves

  • Website Page – Create a dedicated page to talk up acceptances, scholarships, and success stories.

  • Blogs – Create relevant and current blog posts. Check out whittleonline.org and their posts: "Teaching Tools for the Pandemic and Beyond” and “Stories of Connection: Unleashing a Perspective of Possibility."

  • Social Media - Startle people with imagery and videos, provide value, use red in small doses to capture attention, lead with a storyline, and periodically give something away. Curate content created by your community (students, parents, staff, faculty)

  • Publicity - Maximize publicity and create a buzz about your seniors and other stories.

  • Google Ads - Create some ads that include references to health and safety, as well as attributes your school develops such as: perseverance, tenacity, and independence.

  • Provide Service - On the EMA weekly call, one school mentioned they had a local psychologist do a webinar and another school connected with local art museums to provide lectures. Donate recent art and photos to local libraries and restaurants.

  • Give Back - Check out how schools posted a thank you to medical workers: on 30 Second Thank You and how this Academy created a Wall of Gratitude

Questions? Contact us for a free consultation to respond to your specific questions. This is not a discovery call. Aperture Advisory is committed to helping schools during Covid-19.

Phone: 760.805.5136 or email: info@apertureadvisory.com



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