Charter schools present a unique opportunity for children to receive an education tailored to their special interests or needs.
Charter schools are actually public school that are independent of school districts. They typically have direct contracts with either a state or local board, which means that they have greater accountability and responsibility.
They are funded on a per-pupil basis with government funds and can sometimes receive private funding. But, without meeting their enrollment numbers, charter schools often struggle to exist.
And, because they aren’t simply neighborhood schools, they don’t attract students on the basis of location alone. This creates one of their greatest challenges…they need a winning marketing strategy.
So, let’s look at four student recruitment strategies for charter schools to meet their enrollment goals.
1. Develop a Marketing Presence
As noted above, charter schools sometimes struggle to market their offerings. Recruiting is difficult for the most experienced of professionals, bringing with it an array of challenges. But, at an elementary level or even a high school level, it’s even harder. Many parents often don’t know the option exists. And even if they do, they’re not certain how to approach the choice or why they should bother.
Charter schools must not only ensure that people know about them, but that they see the benefits of sending their child there.
Education must start young, and tailoring learning to a child’s preexisting interests or needs empirically improves outcomes for the student and the classroom. That means getting the word out through various media, including:
- Opinion pieces in popular education publications or local magazines
- Blogging and guest posting
- Listing themselves on education indexes or online sites
- Sending out emails to interested parties who sign up
- Using an SMS service to communicate with parents who have demonstrated interest
Once you get your school’s presence known, it extremely important to understand exactly what you’re trying to communicate to parents and prospects, and that in turn means refining your brand.
2. Refine Your School Brand
Your school brand rests heavily on the specific interest area or need you’re serving. This runs the gamut, including:
- Languages such as Spanish, French, Japanese, Chinese, Russian or German
- STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)
- Performance arts
- Visual arts
- Global citizenship or international schools
- Special needs
- Accelerated curricula and early college prep
… and more.
Once you have that in hand, it’s time to determine what both the student and parent personas are of your ideal target.
Here are some questions to ask:
- Whom are you serving, both in the classroom and in the home?
- What do those people value?
- How do you reach them through visual brand and emotional messaging?
Answering questions such as these is critical before you begin outreach.
3. Determine Which Channels Work Best For You
Once you have a brand you feel reflects your organization, it’s time to get the word out through various channels. You should already have a marketing presence, so that when parents look you up, they’ll get the information they need to showcase you in the best light.
As with any other consumer choice, you must be visible to any searcher.
That, however, is different from determining the exact channels you will use to pull students into your school. Your recruitment team only has so much time, energy and resources. So, you have to select the best options rather than attempting to employ all of them.
Typically, the most effective ones for charter schools include:
Happy parents are your absolute best source of advertising. 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. Send out quarterly emails or take-home newsletters asking parents to offer their recommendation in written form, tell their friends about the school and speak at informational meetings.
On-Site Information Meetings
Speaking of meetings, you’ll need to set up semi-regular, in-person get-togethers if you want to transform prospects into attendees. Parents want to see the school, speak with staff and students, and get a feel for the place before they’ll consider sending their student there. Hold a meeting at least twice a year, or more often if you have the resources.
Community Papers or Websites
Sharing your school’s interest areas and benefits is important. And while you want to cultivate a more widespread presence, nowhere is your message more germane than right in the surrounding cities that you typically acquire students from.
Speak with local outlets to learn more about how to market with them.
Online and Social Media
No one accomplishes anything these days without the help of social media. Think that’s taking it a little too far? It isn’t.
Schools across the spectrum use social media, from public schools to charters to private institutions. If you fail to engage on social media or in the online sphere, you’re simply handing your competitors an engraved invitation to put you out of business.
Make no mistake…While charters are non-profit, they are most definitely a business. If you run out of funding or support, your school can be closed. So, take the time you need to cultivate a robust online presence and use social media to your advantage.
4. Process Applications Easily and Legally
Charter schools have very specific application requirements. Their mandate includes following public-school law in their state, even if the majority of their funding comes from private sources.
This means they cannot discriminate against students that they admit to their schools. As a result, charter schools must ensure that they follow those rules and regulations, as well as process applications fairly.
And, because of their increased accountability, tracking all of this becomes even more important.
How Software Can Help
The secret to finding, engaging and keeping the right students on your school campus is using the right software.
Quality software will allow you to:
- Manage all documents related to the recruitment, admissions and enrollment cycle
- Attract students through online outreach and other media
- Communicate with parents throughout the enrollment process, and after students begin attending your school
- Set up school tours and on-site meetings
- Send out informational email blasts
- Analyze the effectiveness of your marketing efforts
Charter schools are responsible for marketing themselves, creating their own systems and being accountable to their state or local board. They don’t simply use the widespread public-school software and methodology for recruitment and admissions.
That makes it critically important that charter schools choose a software system that will allow them to achieve all three of these goals. That is why it is important to research your options and find a software system that works best for your specific needs.