Whether your school is a highly competitive STEM high school or a small Catholic school, high enrollment rates are essential for ensuring you can continue providing a high-quality education to your students year after year. This guide will explain how to recruit students for a private school in the U.S., though the tips shared here can also work for schools in other countries.
In This Article
- 10 Private School Recruitment Strategies
- 6 Important Considerations for Successful Student Recruitment
- How Automated Technology Can Help You Recruit More Effectively
- Improve Your Private School Recruitment Strategy With TADS Software
Why Is Private School Student Recruitment Important?
Unlike public and charter schools, private schools rely mainly on revenue from tuition to build their academic budgets each year. That’s why it’s so important to maintain high enrollment rates—the more students a school brings in, the more funding they have to invest in learning materials, classroom maintenance, and excellent faculty.
Data from the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) show that, while enrollment rates at independent private schools dipped slightly during the pandemic, numbers rose again by 2.6% for the 2022-2023 school year. It’s important to note, though, that these statistics vary by school type and demographics. For example, independent private elementary schools saw the highest growth rate at 6%, while independent private high schools only grew by 1%.
Regardless, there is a clear need to increase class sizes. Finding ways to improve private school recruitment is one of the best steps admissions teams can take to grow school revenue over the next few years.
10 Private School Recruitment Strategies
Here are 10 strategies private schools can use to attract new students and boost enrollment.
1. Build a School Website
Your website is the first point of contact many families will have with your school, so you want to ensure it leaves a good impression. It should load quickly and be easy to navigate so that even the least tech-savvy family members can find the information they need without a hassle.
While larger schools may need more developed websites, these five pages are essential:
- Home: Your website’s landing page should be clean and attractive. Use high-quality graphics and photos, and have a straightforward navigation menu to direct visitors to important pages.
- About: List basic information about your school, such as your address, school hours, and contact information for your principal and front office. Also, add your school’s mission statement somewhere on this page.
- Faculty and staff: Help prospective students get a good feel for your school’s community by providing a picture of each faculty member with a link to a class page so they can add content as needed. Some schools nest this page under your “About” section.
- Academics: Here, you’ll provide a brief overview of your school’s curriculum and helpful links to more in-depth information. Schools with defined academic programs, like STEM high schools, should clearly define how their curriculum sets them apart from other private schools.
- Admissions: This page should provide a comprehensive overview of your school’s admissions process and requirements. You should include links to any application forms your school uses. An FAQ section or self-serve knowledge base can also help families better understand the process on their own, so your office staff can focus on other tasks.
You can hire a professional web developer to build and maintain your website for the best results.
2. Outline Offerings and Programs
With all the options for private schooling that families can choose from, what makes your school unique? Do you offer individualized attention, create accommodative learning environments, and hire highly qualified staff?
Whatever advertising media you use—digital content or physical handouts—be sure to highlight the best features of your school. Families are future-focused, so promote how your school can make dreams happen.
3. Share Useful and Relevant Content
Content marketing is a key component in education recruitment strategies. Publish helpful, relevant content on your school’s website and social media channels to connect with your audience on a more personal level. This content will help you build trust and increase quality leads.
Some good content marketing ideas for private schools include:
- Livestreaming events and activities to show how you make learning fun.
- Publishing infographics that showcase student success statistics.
- Creating a dedicated blog for school news.
4. Use Social Media Platforms
Social media lets you stay in touch with your community and keep up with the latest trends. Encourage students and their families to follow your school’s social media pages and interact with each other through likes, shares, and reviews.
Each social media platform has its own strengths and weaknesses, which is why they tend to attract different audiences. For example, while Facebook is currently the most popular social media platform, it skews more toward adults—men aged 25 to 34 make up its biggest audience segment. That’s why a platform like Facebook is best for appealing to parents or caregivers through traditional ad campaigns and hard statistics.
Teens tend to prefer video-sharing platforms like YouTube and TikTok. You could use these apps to appeal to prospective students by sharing footage of school events and student news. If your school has media arts or journalism classes, you could also incorporate these platforms into your curriculum and allow them to create their own content.
5. Build a Dedicated Recruitment Team
Many schools—especially smaller institutions with fewer resources—turn to their existing staff to serve as their admissions and enrollment department. While the knowledge these individuals have can absolutely be an asset to your K-12 recruiting strategy, they rarely have time to spare for building relations with prospective students.
Instead, consider bringing in dedicated professionals who have experience and qualifications in areas like marketing and recruiting. In addition to having more time, a dedicated marketing team knows how to reach people in a way that your principal or front office staff wouldn’t.
6. Host School Tours and Open Houses
Another great recruitment strategy is to invite students on campus for open houses and school tours. Here are some tips for creating an excellent campus tour experience:
- Communicate with attendees: Stay in touch with families before, during, and after your event to keep them in the loop on what to expect and where to go. Consistent communication is also important for keeping families in your recruitment pipeline after they go home.
- Create an intimate atmosphere: Intimacy is essential for connecting directly with prospective students and their families. Keep tour groups small, and provide opportunities for families to meet with faculty in person so you can leave a strong impression.
- Meet attendees’ needs: Open houses are often full-day events packed with information, so offering opportunities to take breaks between sessions can help families recharge.
- Ask for feedback: Post-open house surveys can help your admissions team gauge how successfully you managed to demonstrate the value of attending your school.
It’s important to remember that some families may be unable to visit in person. Taking advantage of digital technology can help you connect with these students through virtual campus tours and live streaming information sessions.
7. Nurture Your Leads
The ultimate goal of recruiting is to convert prospective students into enrollees. Once a family expresses interest in your school, your goal should be to keep them moving through the recruitment funnel until they submit a deposit and enroll their student.
Good admissions software can handle some of the lead nurturing tasks for you, reducing the burden on your admissions staff. For example, automated notifications can keep students and families informed of important deadlines and updates on application progress, which can help relieve some of the stress of waiting for a response.
8. Simplify Admissions
Admissions and enrollment are stressful for everyone involved, which is why a simple admissions process can help improve how families perceive your school. Using documents and workflows can keep things moving and eliminate some of the pressure.
For example, family members who are less comfortable using modern technology may get confused when filling out complex applications and accidentally skip over important sections or fail to submit supplemental documents. And those missing pieces can cause bottlenecks for your admissions teams, leading to wasted time and more missed deadlines.
Advanced admissions and enrollment software can streamline admissions processes for both families and office staff by:
- Pre-populating fields on applications and financial aid forms.
- Providing one application for multiple schools.
- Automating workflows for office staff to keep applications moving.
- Centralizing student data into one easily accessible location.
- Sending families automated reminders about incomplete applications.
9. Build Talent Pipelines
You can source prospective students by building relationships with other institutions in your community. For example, a private high school could partner with local public and private middle schools to develop awareness among rising freshmen.
Talent pipelines can be especially effective student recruitment strategies for elementary schools, as you could source new students from local preschools and kindergartens. Ideally, these students will re-enroll at your school for many years to come.
10. Leverage Alumni Networks
What better representation does your school have than former students? Tapping into your alumni pool—or creating an alumni network if you still need one—can help provide new resources for prospective students.
Accomplished graduates can be especially helpful assets in recruitment strategies for high school students because they can serve as ambassadors to your school. For example, alumni can answer questions from prospective students and families about how your school has helped them work toward a strong career in university and beyond.
6 Important Considerations for Successful Student Recruitment
To build a successful private school recruitment strategy, consider these six key factors:
1. Align Your Recruitment Strategy With Your Mission
Every educational institution has a mission statement. For example, a private Catholic school’s mission might be to provide their students with a solid understanding of Catholic doctrine and moral ethics and an excellent academic foundation. Building your recruitment strategy around this mission can help you attract families who believe in your school.
2. Follow the Student Recruitment Funnel
A recruitment funnel is a framework that guides your admissions team through each step of the student recruitment process. The K-12 private school recruitment funnel is similar to the model used in college admissions:
- Prospect: While the student’s family may be considering your school, they still have yet to engage with you directly.
- Inquiry: The student’s family demonstrates interest in attending your school by attending an open house, submitting an online inquiry form, or contacting your admissions team directly.
- Applicant: The student’s family submits an application to your school.
- Admission: The student receives notification of admission at your school, but their family still needs to submit a deposit. At this stage, families often wait to receive more information about financial aid or academic placement before making a decision.
- Deposit: The student’s family submits a financial deposit to secure their spot in the upcoming class.
- Enrollment: The student completes onboarding and registers for classes.
3. Consider How to Recruit a Diverse Student Body
A school’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is becoming increasingly important for students and families—especially in areas where people come from many different cultural backgrounds. Multicultural awareness and sensitivity ensure that everyone at your school feels a strong sense of belonging, which is essential for an effective learning environment.
Some ways your school can work toward attracting more diverse students include:
- Emphasizing values like cultural competency and inclusion.
- Prioritizing diversity when hiring faculty and staff.
- Share stories from students of diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Conduct more thorough research into the community your school serves.
- Translate your informational materials into other languages to improve accessibility.
4. Invest in Retention as Well as Recruitment
Although private school enrollment is up, the numbers still have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels. And since returning students make up most of your enrollees each year, your admissions team should treat student retention with the same level of care as recruiting new students.
Look at your enrollment data for previous years. If your school experiences high student turnover, there’s likely an underlying issue causing families to go elsewhere. Conducting surveys can help you determine what that problem is so you can act to solve it.
5. Make Your School Accessible to Non-Traditional Families
Over the past few decades, we’ve seen family structures evolve away from the traditional nuclear family. Today’s families often look quite different—the modern family structure can include many different combinations of parents, relatives, stepchildren, and more.
A successful recruitment strategy will avoid alienating students in non-traditional families by being thoughtful about the messages they send. For example, in families where the parents are separated or divorced, it’s common for one parent or caregiver to be more engaged in their child’s education than the other. Admissions teams should still make an effort to communicate with both parties to avoid causing conflict.
Private school admissions strategies should be sensitive to the needs of non-traditional families. They can also affect a student’s success in the classroom by providing a model for instructors to follow. For example, many children of LGBTQ+ parents experience bullying, and schools that actively promote inclusion can encourage teachers to take action when they witness incidents.
6. Leverage Advanced Tech Tools
Many schools today are shifting to virtual admissions software to accept, process, and approve applications for admissions and financial aid. Some of the benefits of this change include:
- Time savings: According to a recent survey of 4,000 office professionals, employees spend an average of 3.6 hours searching for documents each day—and losing time can cause detrimental bottlenecks in admissions processes. Integrated admissions software consolidates all student and family data into one centralized location, making it easier to find the information you need when you need it.
- More effective communication: An integrated software program can enable seamless communication between everyone involved in the admissions process—including parents and students—making it easier to keep track of important information.
- Improved user experience: Software suites should accommodate family members’ abilities—the right program is intuitive and easy to use, even for those who don’t typically feel comfortable with technology.
- Reduced office waste: Gone are the days of sifting through mountains of paper applications. Virtual admissions software allows your admissions team to go paperless, improving your sustainability efforts while reducing costs associated with office waste.
- Greater submission flexibility: Because virtual admissions software runs on the cloud, users can access application materials anywhere, at any time, on any internet-connected device. This flexibility especially helps families who are moving or who travel frequently, as they can submit applications when their schedule allows rather than struggling to fit your deadlines into their already packed schedules.
How Automated Technology Can Help You Recruit More Effectively
Using the right virtual admissions software can help your school simplify the admissions and enrollment process by cutting unnecessary complexity and creating a more streamlined user experience. Look for an integrated software solution that offers features such as:
- Application tracking: Waiting to hear back from a school about admissions decisions and financial aid can be scary for families, which is why it’s important to be as transparent as possible throughout the process. Look for a software solution that allows both families and admissions staff to monitor application progress to ensure everyone is on the same page.
- Integrated payments: You can make your admissions officer’s jobs a little easier by adopting a solution that enables you to accept application and enrollment fees electronically at the time of submission. Some solutions also automatically calculate discounts based on your school’s pre-defined criteria, which can help reduce payment errors.
- Automated notifications: Families might miss application deadlines amidst the chaos of everyday life. Automated admissions software can help families keep up with important deadlines.
- Customized branding: Create a more cohesive admissions experience for families by incorporating branding elements like fonts, school colors, and logos into your application.
If you’re looking for a well-designed, fully integrated software suite to manage your private school’s office tasks, TADS products may be right for you.
Improve Your Private School Recruitment Strategy With TADS Software
Even with an excellent marketing and recruiting strategy in place, unnecessarily complex tech can be enough to discourage families from applying to your school. Using the right admissions software can help.
With intuitive automation and a comprehensive hub for applicant data, our user-friendly Admission and Enrollment solution simplifies admissions and enrollment for both families and school staff. The software augments your admissions team by guiding families through your school-branded application, tracking applications in real time, accepting fee payments, and so much more.
Request a free demo today to see our Admission and Enrollment solution in action.