Where do your new students come from? Unless you are running a preschool, chances are that they are coming to your school from another school.
Identifying what schools are “feeding” into your school and improving those pipelines is a fundamental enrollment strategy for any private or charter school. But as with any relationship, they must be cultivated and managed to be effective.
Most private and charter schools operate as stand-alone schools. They aren’t part of a natural transition like what occurs in the traditional public school district. So these schools must constantly be looking to create and deepen relationships to bring in more students.
Many schools have anecdotally identified strong feeder schools, but don’t take the next step to partner and deepen these relationships.
So how do you develop these feeder school relationships? Going about this is rather easy.
Step One: Know who your feeder schools are
There are two sources that you can use to identify feeder schools. The first one is your existing student base. As part of your standard enrollment process, you should always ask what school the student previously attended. In taking this small step, you can identify who are your existing feeder schools.
In my opinion, the new student enrollment form is really a wasted opportunity for schools to gather critical marketing information. I cover this and other small changes you should make to your enrollment form to drive higher enrollment here.
Over time, you will also be able to make a qualitative judgment on the quality of the schools that feed into yours. If you know that students from feeder school X are particularly strong academically, you can then focus on that school to try to recruit higher achieving students. If you know that students from feeder school Y are particularly well behaved and you are looking to attract more serious and attentive students, then spend more time with school Y.
This is a bit of a change in culture. Targeting the attributes of a student rather than just hoping good students come to you is not how K-12 schools normally work. But if you think about how colleges (who have a list of targeted feeders) do it, it is a similar concept. Go to the source for the best students.
Step 2: Understand all of your potential feeders
Knowing your existing feeder schools is just the first step. Your next step is to identify all of the potential feeder schools that you could tap into. A great resource for this is the website www.greatschools.org. Using this website, enter your school’s address and the site will identify every school within a five-mile radius. It is very easy to set the search for preschools if you a K-8 seeking to grow your base or to set it for elementary schools if you are a high school trying to make sure you are covering all of your potential opportunities.
A lot of times you may think you know all of the schools around you, but you can be surprised. Once you have this wider list – review it with your staff to identify which schools should be a target for your relationship building efforts.
Step 3: Build your relationships
Now that you have your shortlist of potential feeder schools it is a matter of creating relationships with that school. Make contact with either the principal or guidance counselor or in the case of a preschool, the center director. Offer to provide them a school tour or to meet with them to help them understand the specific benefits of your school for their students. You should always be able to articulate who your target student is when you are discussing your school with a potential feeder school.
This is very critical for elementary schools. Being able to recruit a strong kindergarten class is often a key area of strength for an elementary school. But yet, many schools don’t actively reach out to the preschools operating in their area.
Now that you have identified your feeder schools and made initial contact, it is important to continue to cultivate that relationship. There are many different ways for you to partner with these other schools:
- Offer a shadow day for their students at your school
- Offer to link to their website
- Matching up your early curriculum requirements with their curriculum
- Conduct joint service projects together
- Invite their students to your athletic or art events
- Include them in your art shows, or create a spot for their children in your school play
- Have one of your teachers do a “pop-up” educational lesson on STEM or art for their school
- Share feedback with them on how their students are excelling at your school
There are many different approaches you can take, try them all to deepen the relationship and figure out what works best.
Establishing school feeder relationships is an easy and free marketing program that will pay huge dividends as you attempt to recruit and enroll more students.