The end of the school year is a very busy time (so is the beginning and the middle if we’re being honest with ourselves) and it’s easy to get lost in all of the day-to-day activities, special assemblies, graduations, report cards, staff turnover, and everything else that is going on.
It’s also a great time to celebrate the hard work your graduates have done and highlight where they are going in the fall.
But most importantly, it is confirmation that you were able to fulfill the promise you made to the parents when you were recruiting them. Your school set their children up for success in the next stage of their educational journey.
Year-end celebrations are not only a real feel-good moment for the school and the kids but a great chance to market your school to the next generation of graduates. With a little bit of extra work and forethought, you can make the end of their academic journey, a key enrollment event and selling point for those just starting out.
Build relationships for mutual benefit
The benefits of high schools and grade schools having an excellent working relationship are many.
For grade schools, it’s always a good idea to have a solid relationship with the schools where your graduates tend to go. The ability to pick up the phone and talk to the admissions office to help a student on the bubble get in, or reach out to the curriculum office to find out how your grads are performing and where next year’s class might need some help can be immensely helpful to your students and their families after they leave your doors.
High schools can find terrific value in connecting with their feeder schools as well. Knowing the administration and curriculum of the local grade schools helps high schools to better prepare for their incoming students before they arrive and better teach them once they are on campus.
These relationships can also be mutually beneficial from a marketing perspective. In most markets, students have a choice to make when it comes to high school. Building relationships with grade schools can help create a pipeline. The grade schools know where their students are most likely to succeed and can help direct the students to the high schools where they will thrive.
Grade schools get to continue helping their students, by guiding them to the right high school for them. This connection also helps build a pipeline for future alumni success stories.
When the kid who graduated grade school three years ago makes the National Honors Society, or the sophomore class starts a charity to help the local community or a senior gets a volleyball scholarship or admitted into the Ivy League, grade schools should celebrate those events too. After all, grade schools helped build the foundation.
Parents, no matter the age of their child, want to envision a bright future for their kids and whether they’re considering a pre-school or a high school, these success stories help them see that future much clearer. And they see the schools involved as part of that story.
Showcase your end result – This is where our grads go to succeed
When parents are out shopping for schools they are thinking about how this choice prepares their kids for life after school.
Yes, even the parents of two-year-olds looking for preschools.
It’s not the only factor, but it’s a big one. Being able to show off your grads and their high school and college choices helps give these new parents proof that you do what you claim to do. You prepare students for the next level, and here’s what that looks like!
Spirit Wear (and photo shoot)
Bragging on your grads has a number of benefits, but how best to do it?
The easiest answer is to have a Spirit Day in May. Encourage your graduates to come to school wearing a t-shirt or sweatshirt from the high school or college of their choice. Turn it into a tradition that becomes part of the ritual of graduating from your school.
Add a parents coffee or a donut breakfast or something equally low key and festive to start or end the school day and take pictures. Lots of pictures.
The most important one being the big group shot with everyone’s sweatshirt visible right out in front of the building. You want anyone who sees the picture to see the smiling faces of your kids, their gear prominently displayed, and the name of your school (or other identifiable feature of the building).
Also, take this time to touch base with the admissions directors and administration of schools your students will be attending. Any time you can add a testimonial from someone at those schools talking about how much they love having kids from your school, or how well-prepared the kids from your school are, the more concrete the benefits of the education you provide become.
This picture and these testimonials can be used in future marketing material, on your website, and as the picture you attach to that first piece of follow up mail you send them to announce a reunion or add them to your annual fund in a few years when they’re out of school and ready to give back.
And for your athletes and scholarship winners, hosting a signing-day photo op is another way to highlight the achievements of your students and put them, and your school, on the front page of the local paper.
Four Years Later
There is one last step you can take on this grad-celebration path.
For grade schools, ask the high schools to gather your alumni together in May before they graduate so you can get a picture of your grads in their college sweaters. This serves the same purpose for them as the earlier picture served for you, so they’ll be happy to do it. And you get a side by side set of pictures, showing the colleges your students attend.
For high schools, it’s a little trickier, because your grads are likely to be spread further out, but reach out to these alumni as they graduate from college. Invite them back to the high school for a barbecue or some other celebration, and get another picture of these recent college grads, back in their high school colors.
The story for your school community and prospective parents is clear.
When your kids graduate from our school, they succeed. They go to these great local high schools and four years later, they go to these fantastic colleges. And four years after that, they come home and reconnect with the schools that helped get them there.
There are a number of factors that go into choosing a school. You can show parents your test scores, have them talk to current parents, give an amazing tour, and have a great website with easy to find and understand information.
But giving parents the image of what success looks like, what their three-year-old will look like in ten years as they head off to the high school of their choosing, or 14 years when they’ve chosen a college can be incredibly powerful.
Celebrate this year’s graduates and show next year’s new students what it looks like to be a big kid, heading off to high school.