How private schools can recruit top students

Schools earn their reputations by producing high-achieving alumni. To produce high-performing students, schools need to give their student body the best teachers and resources available. But they also need to recruit talented students who are able to make full use of those advantages.

Talent manifests itself in many ways — through academics, sports, and other extracurriculars. Schools need to decide what they wish to be known for and what they’re looking for in their student body to formulate a process for finding and developing that talent.

The key to effective student recruitment is putting a strategy in place to collect and manage data on future students.

Pro Tip

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Private schools need to develop a talent pipeline

Recruitment is a process that requires a pipeline. This pipeline will vary from school to school, but a process needs to be in place. The first step of the process is awareness. Prospective families and students need to know about your school. This largely happens via online marketing and recruitment events.

“Develop relationships with other lower level schools and community programs that have access to talented students,” says Daniel Gutzmore, president of marketing agency Highbrid Media. “If you’re a private high school, develop a relationship with the best public middle schools. If you’re a private elementary school, develop and recruit from child care centers, etc.” Find the areas you want your students to come from and build pipelines.

Recruitment events are another way to find talented students and gather information about them. “Prepare a recruitment presentation to be given to parents,” suggests school marketing consultant Arnaud Prevot. “Make sure it has relevant information, attractive points about your school, and identifies any obstacles to admissions.”

These events can be an opportunity to collect names, phone numbers, and a bit of information about the students themselves. You can use online forms for event registration and collecting feedback. Keeping this information online makes organization and management much easier.

Once you’ve made prospective students and their families aware of your school, you can move ahead with school tours and the application process.

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Institute a selective application process

To attract and retain the most talented students, you need to have high standards of academic performance for applicants.

“To help distinguish applicants, private schools use standardized testing,” writes Robert Kennedy at Private School Review. “The Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) and Secondary School Admissions Exam (SSAT) are the most commonly used admissions tests for private, independent, and boarding schools.” These tests can identify how proficient students are in different academic categories.

To find talented students to enroll in your school, you must have a reputation for being both selective and for offering students what they need to develop their skills. Admittance does not have to be based on test scores alone, but your school must have an objective policy in place to determine who will be invited to study at your school.

helping young teacher with his primary school student

Sell your school with effective marketing

Some private schools have a long history of sending students to top colleges and universities. Others are just getting started. You need to treat your school’s marketing strategy just as any other business does — make your school attractive to the top-achieving students you wish to enroll.

When you reach out to prospective students and their families, highlight what makes your school different from your competitors. Do you offer a unique teaching model, teach classes in multiple languages, or focus on STEM subjects? Parents know their children are talented. They also need to know your school is equipped to develop that talent.

Spread your marketing material through the online channels that parents of prospective students actually use. And don’t forget that your online marketing should remain consistent with your in-person marketing. Your social media page should reflect the same values and tone that your recruitment specialist and school staff communicate in person.

Also, encourage current students and families to recommend your school. “Happy parents are your absolute best source of advertising,” says Jeff Hilts, CEO of AdmissionPros. “Anyone with a student currently attending the school, and who is willing to vouch for it, should form a core piece of your marketing engine.” Using parent testimonies is a great way to strengthen your recruitment efforts. Parents will feel more confident sending their child to your school once they have heard other families’ positive experiences.

It’s crucial that you build your school’s reputation. Those that can boast a 100-percent college acceptance rate or that they have students who went on to study at Ivy League schools will see larger applicant pools and higher enrollment. Accomplishing a stellar reputation starts with having exacting standards and recruiting talented students.

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