Category Archives for "Best Practices"

Increase Student Enrollment and Retention- Retaining More Families

8 HACKS TO INCREASE STUDENT ENROLLMENT & RETENTION

Hack #8

Retain More Families

A key component to overall enrollment growth is retention.  The more students that you are able to retain year after year, the greater your potential to continue growing as opposed to staying even or declining. Someone once said, “It is easier to keep a seat that fill a seat!”  We couldn’t agree more. How do your parents’ feel about your school?

Our final hack, involves retaining families by establishing a feedback loop.  Such an effort allows leaders to gain insights into individual family concerns and how your school can address those concerns prior to families exploring alternative options.

Many neglect this critical area as in many cases, retention sometimes can feel that it requires little attention beyond sending a notice to families on key deadlines and basic expectations.  Early knowledge of families’ satisfaction and intentions can greatly enhance the ability of school leaders to quickly address concerns and continue providing a top quality education and environment.

Are there processes in place for your parents to provide constructive criticism without experiencing a backlash? Do your parents feel that their opinions matter?  Besides an anonymous suggestion box for ideas, a great way to understand the ongoing needs of your families is to develop and implement a survey program. Perhaps a survey that is linked with their annual enrollment and registration will provide feedback from parents as to what they feel very strongly about.  Although the anonymous suggestion box is good for those parents who may feel threatened and singled out by their comments, a survey associated with a student is more meaningful; because if there is a legitimate concern, leadership should be involved and the issue remedied directly with the parent in a timely manner.  When a parent knows that the school took the time to resolve their issue, they become advocates and cheerleaders for the school.


There are many different ways to design and execute a retention program.  A streamlined way would be to incorporate a survey into your re-enrollment process. The video below demonstrates a great retention program framework.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJf5WIvDbYQ




Increase Student Enrollment- Reduce Barriers to Entry

8 HACKS TO INCREASE STUDENT ENROLLMENT & RETENTION

Hack #6

Reduce Barriers to Entry

With robust marketing activities in place, we are positioned to address the aspects of the enrollment operation that can deter prospective families and applicants.  Hack #6 involves reducing the barriers to entry.

With robust marketing activities in place, we are positioned to address the aspects of the enrollment operation that can deter prospective families and applicants.  Hack #6 involves reducing the barriers to entry.

With the explosion of charter schools, many private schools have experienced a decrease in applications and enrollment.  For some parents, the mission, philosophy, and reputation of your private school is sufficient reason for sending their children to your school, but for many other parents, reservations can include: the cost of a private school education, qualifications of teachers, lack of resources, outside impressions, unflattering online presence, cumbersome application processes and outdated facilities or programs. So the question is how do private schools compete with this new rising “public charter school” alternative?


As we outlined in identifying your strengths and weaknesses, it was noted that one of the most important things private schools need to do is highlight strengths to demonstrate to prospective families that your school is right for them.  Having a structure in place to directly discuss the needs of families is optimal but, what if families do not visit as a result of one of the reservations stated above? In this edition, we’ll provide some tangible ways to reduce some of the more common barriers to entry.  


Professional Online Presence

In Hack #2:Know your Audience Part 1 - External Promotion we discussed the importance of knowing your audience and determining if your audience is able to find you.  Expanding on this concept, once your audience is able to locate you, it is important that you present them with a mindful professional experience.  Social media pages should strictly consist of postings relevant school activities and should reflect the spirit of your school community well. Most importantly, your website should communicate a professional presence.  Beyond simple grammar and clarity, the online experience you guide visitors through should clearly and comfortably showcase items of interest including admissions procedures, tuition information, event calendars and staff/leadership listings.  As people reach pages of interest, it is important to provided digital touchpoints to submit information or reach out for assistance. Too often, school websites go many years without significant updates or redesign and without modern tools, visitors are forced to receive information in fragments and often have to take extra, manual steps to receive responses or answers to questions.  When evaluating your web site, imagine what an appealing journey would look like and work to apply those features to ensure an optimal visitor experience that promotes high value inquiries.


Perception of Exclusivity

A common perception of non-public schools is that they can often be elitist and unsympathetic to the needs of students/families that lack a high level of expendable income.  While private schools correctly desire to be viewed as high quality and exceptional, the idea of being overly exclusive can overshadow the exceptionalism. As we laid out in Hack #3: Know your Audience Part 2 - Internal Promotion, to combat this misconception, it is important to communicate clearly through your marketing efforts that yours is an open, welcoming environment where all families are encouraged to participate.


Responsiveness

Building on the concept of professionalism and welcoming, as families inquire about your school either through digital means or via in-person events, it is essential to respond and follow up on their questions and needs in a timely manner.  As parents evaluate the best schools for their children, they require a great deal of trust in the leadership and operation of the school. If school leaders are not timely in their responses, it is very easy for that poor impression to lead to disinterest in your school.


Streamlined, Secure Application Process.

The application process can be daunting for new families. .  How is your application process from the parents’ perspective? Is your school asking parents to “jump through hoops” or complete manual paper work?  This is an immediate red flag to parents. Hack #2, Understanding Your Audience characterized your “customer”. Old processes and forms for new generations of parents are regarded as archaic and unacceptable.  Consider turnkey systems like K-12 online, infosnap and registration gateway to name a few, that not only do your applications and re-registrations online, but will also be able to handle all your forms, recommendations, tuition and other payments during the process.  While there are costs to consider, streamlined processes, including the recommendation process, not only presents a professional online presence and conveys to the parent that your technology is state-of-the-art, but that you value your parents’ time and want to ensure that interaction with your school is managed as efficiently as possible.  Studies have shown that parents prefer the convenience of online payment for fees, items and tuition and also prefer automated tuition processes. For a live example of how this can be achieved at your school, see K-12 Online’s sandbox site and test drive their “new student” application process.




Living your Mission Statement

Another common pain point that parents raise is the complexity of the tuition payment process.  We often hear frustrations that it is difficult to know what parents are paying for, tuition charges are not transparent, or that the management company is insensitive to parents’ current circumstances when it comes to late payments.  Contracting your tuition management out to a third party has its pros and cons. The benefit is it relieves the school of the collection process, being the “bad guy” and it is “free” to the school. By removing direct contact with the school office, some of the human element about your schools relationships with families can be negatively impacted.  By prioritizing a more personal and compassionate approach, both families and schools benefit. Issues can be worked out quickly and efficiently, fulfilling the school’s mission of providing a caring environment.


By critically examining and employing remedies to potential barriers to entry, school leaders can greatly mitigate the risk resulting from poor process and presentation and ensure marketing and enrollment operations are producing the optimal return on effort.






    Increase Student Enrollment – Communications

    8 Hacks to Increase Student Enrollment & Retention

    Hack #4

    Get Noticed - Communications

    A successful marketing plan consists of three high level efforts.

    1. Planning/Strategy

    2. Execution

    3. Follow Up

    In our previous “hacks”, we fueled our planning/strategy efforts by identifying the value and message of our school as well understanding the needs of our target audience.  To recap:

    In this edition, Hack #4 involves mastering your communications channels.  With a strong message of value and clear idea of who benefits, you are now positioned to master your communications channels and execute your message to the appropriate families.

    The journey to increasing applications typically begins with bringing visitors or, foot traffic, through your doors.  Naturally, communicating opportunities to visit your school is a crucial step.  With that in mind, evaluating and utilizing the available channels will ensure your message is spread as far as possible and yields the highest results.  We will review a number of typical channels. However, you may have access to others not mentioned that should most certainly be utilized to aid your effort.

    In our previous post, we stressed the importance of reaching families with needs similar to that of your current families.  In that effort, leaders work to communicate to current families that theirs is an environment of community, where friends and families are welcomed and encouraged to participate in school activities.  Whenever possible, incorporate incentives to current families for bringing guests to school events.  Incentives can include pizza parties to the class with the most guests, dress down days, or extra recess/activity time.

    Besides incentives, getting your parents involved in the event accomplishes several things:

    1. Parents who help the school feel a sense of belonging

    2. Parents who are invested in the event, want to make it successful

    3. Involved parents are going to be natural social media conduits

    4. A group of parents pursuing a common goal creates energy.

    A successful ministry leader once said, “It takes seven different touches to reach your audience before it sinks in”.  Although seven may not be the magic number, the idea is that people respond differently to “advertising”.  Some respond better to audio, visual and tactile! Marketing through all these channels will ensure that your message will be received in one form or another.

    School Announcements

    Likely the most accessible and easily implemented communication channel is that of internal school announcements via P.A. system, during registration, monthly principal’s newsletter and handouts for students to take home.  Utilizing these channels to share the dates of upcoming events and the key details are a great first start to building awareness in your efforts and encouraging attendance.  As you plan these communications, share the key items of value that people will experience from the event as well broaden the invitation to extended family and friends in the effort to reach people who could similarly be served by the offerings of your school.   Some registration systems like K-12 Online have an area for Announcements which has proven very effective at the beginning of the school year for parents to input all the main upcoming events of the school into their calendars.

    Website

    Create a dedicated page of your event with eye catching images and an easy way to share this page on social media. The main landing page should the marketing page. From that page, buttons or hyperlinks can be added to share information of how parents can get involved with the event and who to contact. Do not overload your landing page with too much information. It should resemble a simple flyer that parents can use as a marketing piece.  This page should also have its own dedicated URL so parents can easily text or email the event to others.

    Email

    With a clear message, share upcoming events with those subscribed to your email list.  Provide clear details on the benefits of the upcoming events. When possible, provide opportunity for online registration so that you can begin to build out your database of prospective families to identify opportunities to serve and opportunities for relevant follow up discussions.

    Social Media

    Often underutilized, sharing news of your events via social media provides great opportunity for exposure to a broader network of families.  One of the key benefits of social media that is overlooked is that most people do not encourage engagement on their postings.  For example, many schools simply post that an event is taking place and struggle to generate “likes” or comments since there is no requested action.  In light of this, when you post about upcoming events, encourage your followers to “like” this post if they plan to attend or encourage comments such as “what are you most looking forward to experiencing?”  This type of ongoing activity on your posts helps ensure they rise to the top of recipients social media feeds and keeps your message active and relevant. Additionally, promoting shares or retweets will ensure your message reaches the circles of your current followers that you would not otherwise be able to reach.  Incentivizing shares or retweets with giveaways or prizes will further encourage engagement.  For example, “like and share this message for a chance to win a free [YOUR SCHOOL] sweatshirt” or something similar, will help your message reach broader audiences.


    Direct Reach Out

    When determining which audience can most benefit from the offerings of your school, consider that you will likely identify more than one actual audience.  The select benefits of your school can differ depending on which audience you are targeting.  For that reason, craft unique, personalized messages to potential audiences, specific to how their needs can be addressed by the services of your school.  Within this effort, identify the proper stakeholder or “gatekeeper” at any targeted groups or institutions to effectively establish a trusting relationship and create advocates for your school.


    Your Parent Organization

    Most schools have a PTA, PTO, Mom’s Club, Dad’s Club.  Parents who participate in these groups are your active and strong advocates.  Meet with the organization’s leadership, explain the purpose of the event and ask their help in promotion.  Sometimes getting them involved in the event not only makes them feel invested, but also lightens the workload...killing two birds with one stone!  On the other hand, something as easy as encouraging all the parents to  send or text the event to their friend circle will go a long way. Since undoubtedly, their friends circle would be other parents who would have similar interests.  


    As we previously identified, potential audiences could include:

    • Child Care or Early Learning Centers
    • Neighboring churches without companion schools
    • Area parent groups
    • Area community organizations
    • Local Meetup Groups

    For the above audience, offer to provide a “print-ready” copy of the event so all they need to do is insert it into their bulletin, newsletter etc. without much effort.  The less work for them, the better!

    With your strategy in place and your execution under way, you are well positioned to welcome a broad audience to your scheduled events.  In our next “hack” we will examine the final channel of paid advertising to further reach families that might share the interests of your target audience.




    Increase Student Enrollment – Internal Promotion

    8 Hacks to Increase Student Enrollment & Retention

    Hack #3

    Know Your Audience (Part 2 -Internal Promotion)

    Internal Promotion

    Our third hack involves extending the reach of your messages by using your current community of families as a vehicle to spread your message.


    To grow your enrollment, you must increase the number of applications to your school.  Increasing the number of applications requires people on-site to experience all your school has to offer.  We recently covered areas of focus for online presence, which is crucial to projecting credibility and confidence in your school however, website visits and social media follows on their own do not result in visits to your school or applications.  


    The concept of internal promotion focuses primarily on leveraging the existing networks within your school community. While school communities consist of a variety of clubs and groups that extend beyond the school setting, the most powerful group at your disposal are your current students and families.  There are no better advocates for your school than those who are currently enrolled and are empowered by the mission.

    The effort begins by simply encouraging and incentivizing current families to invite their friends, family, and extended networks to participate in school related activities.  This strategy is illustrated in full in the video below.

    Events such as theater, music productions or fun family nights like a fall hoe-down, winter or spring festival, BBQ, movie night etc. allow opportunities for current families to invite other prospective families in a “no pressure” situation. Prospective families can mingle with other families, get a taste of the culture of the school and speak to teachers and school leadership in a casual setting.  This may also be an opportunity for prospective students to actually experience the classroom and school in an informal way. Some schools have even awarded current and prospective families with a referral fee credit when new families join the school.


    Hesitation:

    There may be hesitation or discomfort on the part of school leaders to ask current families to join in the effort, which is understandable.  School leaders are trusted figures in the lives of students and their families and are rightfully uneasy at situations that could violate that trust.

    For many, it’s not easy to actively promote their school as there is often hesitation that they will come off as dishonest or too salesy which could be off putting, not only to prospective families but to current families as well.

    To combat this uncomfortable feeling, realize that when families see the value in your school that compels them to join your community, they often want to share that experience with those close to them.  If you extend a warm invitation to include those they love in the experiences of your school, not only will it grow your community of wonderful people, it will allow others to experience all your school has to offer, which will ultimately lead to interest and enrollment.

    If your school has hosted any events or utilizes any incentives that have been successful in promoting their school and are willing to share, please submit your ideas in the comment section at the VERY BOTTOM of this post so we can all learn from each other!  If you've like our content, please share this post with your fellow colleagues!

    Increase Student Enrollment – Know Your Audience

    8 Hacks to Increase Student Enrollment & Retention

    Hack #2

    Know Your Audience (Part 1)

    Can Your Audience Find You?

    In this second edition of “8 Hacks to Increase Enrollment”, we will examine the wealth of digital resources available that are built to assist in drawing attention and interest to your school.  Diving right in, the “hack” to quickly identifying and reaching the right people involves asking 3 key questions.

    1. Is my school easy to find online?

    2. Once located, is my school positioned in the best possible light?

    3. How can I expand my reach?


    For additional perspective, imagine you are a parent seeking the best school for your child.  You likely fall into one of the following categories:

      • Your child is now school age
      • You are new to the area
      • You are dissatisfied with the quality you are receiving from your child's current school

      Regardless of the reason, the first thing you are likely to do is grab your phone or computer and search for schools in your area.  First impressions are important. It’s important to understand who your prospective parents are so that you can effectively market to them.  Let’s face it, you would not market a product to your grandparents the same way you would to your child.  Effective marketing is knowing what triggers your audience’s emotions and interests.  Knowing this allows you to “speak their language” and helps you to market to them better.  Reviewing some school websites, we see sites with obsolete information, broken page links, an outdated look and feel and irrelevant information that will fall on deaf ears.  

      Your prospective parents are Generation Xers (Born 1965­-1979) and Generation Yers or Millenials (Born 1980­-1994).  According to “Marketing to the Generations”, your target market can be characterized as having short attention spans, ecology minded, tech-savvy, pro-community, pro-multiculturalism and seeks instant gratification.  With this in mind, are your marketing efforts appealing to these traits?    Is your website accurate, credible and user-friendly to the point it conveys that you are a tech-savvy school and appeases their need for instant gratification?  Does your media clearly state your school’s mission? Do your media images convey that you are multicultural and diverse?  Do you have online application and registration processes that satisfies their tech-savvy, ecology minded and instant gratification nature?

      Continue reading

      Five Easy Ways Schools Can Save Money

      how-technological-investment-can-help-schools-save-money

      During the difficult challenge of finding ways to save money, administrators are looking in all areas to make positive changes without sacrificing the quality of education and services to their students. Rather than sacrificing the quality of the educational experience for students, administrators can look at their administrative processes and procedures to determine where and how they are spending time and money.

      1. As many educational technologies advance, schools are now able to take advantage of more solutions to eliminate unnecessary costs. These advances include automating the system of communication between administration and parents, student information system that hold important student information (grades, progress reports, attendance), and online registration systems which, if taken advantage of, can be a benefit to all involved.

      Continue reading

      Residency Verification Made Easy with K-12 Online

      Residency verification is a huge concern for school districts. The numbers vary by state but estimates by School Board Associations reveal that apgreencheckmarkproximately 6,000 – 10,000 students in the state, respectively, are attending a school that is not within the district of their actual residency. Ironically, budget cuts at the state and local levels are forcing districts to ensure that all enrolled students meet residency requirements.

      Schools spend countless hours and resources babysitting this process to ensure they are only enrolling students whose parent(s) or guardian(s) reside within district boundaries. However, the manual process of filling out proof of identity and residency forms, not to mention faxing or returning the forms back to the school is tiring.  K-12 Online to the rescue!

      Besides some built-in features that alert school staff of a change of physical residency when parents update their students’ information, K-12 Online has also incorporated new technologies that may assist schools in identifying “out of district??? students even before they enroll. Contact us to find out how we can help your school or district verify residency with ease.

       

      Avoiding the “Where Is My Child on the List?” Call

       

      school

      Parent tours, application submitting, and lottery night! Yep, it’s that time of year for selective enrollment schools. For parents, the gut wrenching, finger-crossed hope that their child gets accepted to a school of choice. And for admins, here come the “Where is my child on the list?” parent inquiry calls, acceptance letters, decline letters, sibling pairings, wait listing, and ideal classroom size selection process.

      Yes, lottery and selective enrollment schools are happy to tout wait lists longer than the line of eager candidates whose spots they can fill, but they also dread the time consuming, tedious procedures of the process.

      By automating the entire process from application to classroom selection, schools can save both parents and admins undue headache (and heartache). Does your current process allow you to effectively:
      • Manage seat availability for each grade
      • Generate individual or bulk acceptance and decline letters
      • Send email alerts and notifications of wait list status and rank to parents
      • Enroll multiple siblings at a time, avoiding redundant data entry
      • Use an algorithm that assists with weight distribution and priorities
      • Track applicants through the process from beginning to end

      These are just some of the many benefits of using an online lottery management system. Such a system ensures fair placement of applicants, helps create ideal class sizes, and automates the application through selection process saving schools time and money. Admins no longer have to waste valuable time thumbing through printed pages to answer a parent’s “Where is my child is on the list?” call and parents no longer have to waste time asking admins about the status of their child’s placement. Ultimately, an online lottery management system stops the endless cycle of wasting the time of both parents and admins involved in a selective enrollment school.

      Celebrate Presidents Day this year by saving some cash

      In these challenging economic times, just about everyone is looking for ways to cut back—even schools. From implementing virtual technology to accepting online payments, districts are continuously seeking money-saving methods. Here are some of our favorites.

       

      Automate Your Processes. Thanks to companies like K-12 Online, districts can simplify everything from managing their lottery and registering students to updating PTA forms. K-12 Online offers an online payment system for uniform orders, field trips fees, textbook fines, and any other payments your district collects.

       

      Channel Your Inner Jerry Lewis. Fundraising is an easy and effective way to raise money. Offering online fundraising options for parents has proven to increase donation amounts by 30%.

       

      Realign Your Resources. Parents are a great resource for schools.   The contributions they make and impact they have on the success of a school are immeasurable.   A key aspect in managing school operations is ensuring that parents are happy. Online registration for schools is a proven parent-pleaser, reducing the amount of time parents spend in line and filling out forms.

       

      It’s Easy Being Green. Reducing paper consumption is an easy, eco-friendly way to help save the planet. By using web-based technology, schools help set the example and address the increasing concerns of deforestation and environmental conservation.

       

      Take our Free School Savings Survey and let us help you save some cash this President’s Day.

       

      California Schools Have a Huge Win with Online Registration

      Some California school districts have gotten way ahead of the curve on paperwork reduction, green initiatives, and parent satisfaction, not to mention administrative cost savings, quick access to information, and stress reduction for school personnel.

      For one school district in California, K-12 Online has revolutionized the registration process. There are countless benefits to utilizing online registration’s online forms and integrated webstore.

      According to Saul Gleser, Assistant High School Principal, registration used to have 40-60 papers in a welcome packet. Parents filled out the same information hundreds of times. Inevitably, when returning the forms on registration day, some students left some papers at home, which made for a very long registration day. For the school secretaries, this meant months of sorting, alphabetizing, filing, and entering new information into the student information system.

      Jireh Infosystems developed K-12 Online, a time-saving, logical, effortless online registration system for parents and a very user-friendly online school management software system for schools.

      Schools are able to create master schedules earlier as a result of K-12 Online’s ability to track the registration progress of each student. Nurses instantly know of any health concerns. PTAs instantly have access to volunteers. ASB instantly knows the quantities of items needing to be purchased. Registration has saved students and parents time, reducing the time spent waiting in lines from hours to mere minutes.

      K-12 Online is effortless from the parent’s perspective and instantaneous from the school’s perspective. It makes registration quick and efficient. K-12 Online gets the school year off to a great start, and usually, registration is the first impression of the school. For this particular school, parents have been very excited, and the response has been overwhelming! Secretaries and administrators love it and couldn’t be happier.

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