Schools (and universities for that matter) are economically interesting organizations. On the surface, the purpose of the school is to educate the next generation so that it can participate in the modern global economy. Students gain critical practical and thinking skills that will serve them well, helping them generate incomes for themselves and their families, thus perpetuating the human project. All very interesting.
But schools aren’t like a run-of-the-mill organization. They have a unique position in that the quality of their customers matters. In other words, the better the students, the higher the prestige of the educational establishment.
To understand this concept, think of how the University of Cambridge’s reputation would change if it weren’t selective. All of a sudden, the results would decline. And top lecturers would search for pastures new, looking for students whom they could coach to replace them once they retire.
Furthermore, the university itself would become less desirable overall. Top students would actively avoid it for the lack of prestige, looking further afield for educational establishments that reflected their ambition and talents.
Something similar happens in selective schools. When you limit entry to all but the best students, you automatically raise the institution’s profile. Results improve, the school moves up the exam results league table. And suddenly, you have a bunch of wealthy people moving to the catchment area, hoping that their kids have the intellect to get in.
Attracting top students is, therefore, part of the life of any school looking to get to the top of its game. Just like a club, it has to have the best clientele.
All schools want to attract the best students, but many fail. So what do they get wrong?
Failing To Make Open Days Inspirational
Open days are a chance for you to showcase your school at its best. You can carefully curate the experience to reveal the institution’s aspects that you want to highlight while downplaying the negatives.
For instance, that average grades at your school are lower than the national average. That’s not the best selling point. But you can often make up the deficit by pointing out that you offer fabulous facilities or use unique teaching methods with proven effectiveness for disadvantaged children. Grades might be low, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the school is performing poorly. A school across town with identical demographics might have much lower results.
Open days should also feel exciting for both parents and students. You want to create an atmosphere that lets kids imagine themselves actually being students at your institution. For the most part, children don’t expect their school life to be filled with excitement, but you can prove them otherwise. Find opportunities on your open days to really make an impact on them, looking for things that are going to appeal to their talents.
Failing To Innovate Digitally
Who knows when the next pandemic will hit. We could see a second wave of coronavirus sweeping through society, or even a brand new disease nobody knows about yet. Therefore, schools need to think much more carefully than ever before about their capacity to institute remote learning. Failing to innovate digitally will put them behind the curve and turn off the best and brightest students.
Your first port of call should be to improve your marketing efforts. Inbound marketing for schools is just as important as it is for any other organization. Educational institutions need to put themselves on the digital map, making them accessible online. Failing to do so will bury them under the mountain of content out there, and parents won’t find them.
Don’t underestimate the importance of creating good SEO and digital outreach. With it, you can use your website to showcase your expertise, achievements, and awards. Your site is a shopfront you can use to bring in the most talented students and get them to take you seriously.
If possible, point out that you’re ready for remote learning, and you can deliver exceptional education over the internet. Parents are very concerned about this at the moment, so it could be a critical differentiator.
Where possible, use digital innovation to back up in-person lessons too. These days, children expect there to be some kind of online support they can refer to after learning in the classroom. Make it available as part of the general syllabus.
Not Creating Branding Materials That Target Their Ideal Student
Think carefully about what the ideal student at your school looks like. It all depends on your organization’s founding mission and who, precisely, you’re trying to educate. Once you have a target audience in mind, you can tailor your marketing to appeal to them individually.
For instance, selective grammar schools focus on the brightest students with the highest grades. If you find yourself in this bracket, you’ll want to focus your efforts on careers and getting students into the top universities. If sports are your focus, you’ll want to highlight the fact that you offer excellent facilities for swimming, football and so on. Likewise, schools that focus on music will want to talk about their music rooms and concerts.
Failing To Advertise Graduate Reviews
Most businesses try to get their customers to leave reviews of their services to act as social proof – peer-based evidence that they are good and can do the job. Schools that want the top talent need to do the same.
The idea of leaving reviews for schools sounds innovative – and it is. But it is also necessary for a competitive space. Most institutions are not doing this, and it is hurting their appeal, especially online. There is no fundamental reason why reviews are not more common across the sector. Nothing is more important to children than their education. So reviews are essential for helping others make informed choices, especially at the sixth-form or college level.
Schools can make a host of mistakes when trying to attract top students. However, with a little care and attention, they can soon turn things around. None of the above requires profound structural change.
Thanks for stopping by today, I hope you’ve enjoyed this post.