How Private Schools and Families Connect: Modern Tools But Relationships Stay Fundamental

All of us on the boarding/private school side of the admissions equation ask year in and year out — how do we meet more families? How can we connect with and reach more families with students who might fit our school?

These questions and the efforts of admission professionals are the lifeblood of our schools. No town, city, neighborhood, or group of families can, or will, populate a school forever.

New families, new kids, the ebbs and flows of life, mean that those of us on the admissions side must continually refresh older, and build new, relationships.

The admissions process is all about building honest, warm relationships around what your school offers and what’s best for the student. Sometimes, your school fits well with family and their student. Sometimes, your school doesn’t fit and you might suggest to a family, ‘go look at [school].’

Relationships don’t come more honest and fair than an admission officer realizing that a student might fit better at a colleague’s school.

Twenty, or So, Years Ago The Internet Was All Going to Change the Relationship Equation

Around 1995, the transmission of school information via the web began to take off. We [schools] dove into building websites, online applications, student management systems. Our worlds, from an information management standpoint, were turning inside out. Where do we begin and where does it end?

I think, for the most part, we have our communication systems in place; we know how they work; we know what they do; we know how to address different constituencies. We know when to make changes and updates. We engage in the conversation of social media. In short, we know our tools and how to use them.

A Funny Thing Happened: The Primary Way We Connect with New Families Didn’t Change Much

How Private Schools and Families Connect: Modern Tools But Relationships Stay Fundamental

Rick Newbery

What! You mean all that blogging and social media isn’t connecting me with families.

It is; it helps.

But some things don’t change.

This whole musing comes from a recent blog post by Rick Newbery, 10 Things I’ve Learned about Marketing from Parent Focus Groups.

Rick takes a quick look at, how, from his experiences, families find and choose a school for their student.

The quick distillation:

The Affirmative

  • To connect with a family, they need to be in the school search process and looking.
  • Other parents are the primary influences in another family’s decision. Parents talk to each other.
  • Parents want academics that fit their student.
  • Parents often build and respond to emotional connections built with the potential school.

I’m with Rick all the way on this. The admissions world is all about relationships.

But, what about all the tools and media that we have at our disposal?

Connection Challenges

  • Parents don’t generally look for schools out of the blue. They’ve already spoken with friends.
  • Schools do need a solid web presence.
  • Parents don’t seem to rely on traditional marketing- print, ad, radio sponsorship, direct mail, postcard, etc.
  • Admission materials don’t make the decision.

Back to our tools- how can we best use media thoughtfully- not all of it at once

Make Our Current and Recent Families the Focus of Much Our Media

Twenty years after the revolution, we’re back to cultivating and taking care of our current families as our strongest advocates and best ambassadors.

  • How are we staying connected with them?
  • How are we keeping them informed?
  • How are we letting them share their stories?
  • How are we involving them in the admission process?
  • How are we using student voices?

An Intuitive But Unspoken Conclusion

The future of schools lies in doing a great job with our students and bringing current parents and families deeper into the admission and relationship process. Our foundation rests on the great work to be done with each student and making that family an ambassador of your school’s work and their students success.

This is back to future moment.

The two primary differences – democratized electronic tools and dissemination speed.

Brian Fisher

A product of both private and public education, Brian Fisher served as a teacher, coach, dorm parent, and administrator at three different boarding schools. Brian also fills the role of Director of Development at Wolfeboro, The Summer Boarding School, in NH along with being a partner at AdmissionsQuest.

More by Brian Fisher

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