When searching for a new school, families generally have a few factors which are top of mind. In this post, we’ll go through these priorities, so you can recognise your school’s strengths (and areas of improvement) so you can make the most out of your marketing efforts.

1. Extra costs

Parents are sure to keep an eye out for any extra costs that may come with enrolment, and it's a good idea to be as transparent as possible so you can build trust. Some common examples parents will look for include textbooks, uniforms, and bus fares, but it ultimately depends on how your school fees are structured. Make sure your admission team’s ready to provide parents with a quick rundown on the costs involved with enrolment, so they can feel confident and catered-for. If your school is not transparent about fees early on during the admissions process, it’s important that your team has a clear message on the value proposition of your school.

2. Extracurricular activities

Your extracurricular activities likely make up some of your most important unique selling points. Some schools may have a strong sports program that they want to promote to attract more athletic students. Other schools may want to promote their music program, or their debate team, or any other of their strong programs which can be enticing for potential families. By marketing your extracurricular activities and making them a part of your brand identity, you’re making it that much easier for parents to quickly pick you out. 

3. Customer experience

When searching for a new school, parents are bombarded with a plethora of choices from schools competing for their attention. What’s likely to tip the scales in your favour is your customer experience. For both prospective and current families, if they aren’t completely satisfied with their experience at your school (i.e. feel at home when interacting with your school), all they need to do is a simple online search to find an alternative solution. 

By understanding what creates a great experience for families across all interactions with your school, you’ll not only retain enrolments, but also create advocates who’ll go on to spread the word to their broader networks, attracting new enrolments in the process.

4. Digital expectations

Millennials and Gen Z parents expect digitally forward experiences for their children. From admissions to school communication to learning tools, you need to evaluate what your tech experience is like for your families. 

Millenial and Gen Z parents are much more comfortable with technology themselves, so it’s only natural they expect your school to be up-to-date with smartphones and the internet. They’ll also be much more sensitive to the quality of your technology, and have a keen eye for optimisation and graphic design. They’re just as likely to react negatively towards poor technology as they are to no technology. 

Upgrading your school’s digital touchpoints isn't just advantageous for improving experiences for parents and students, but also for streamlining your internal processes and making the lives of your marketing and admissions staff easier. Good tech will allow your school to personalise on scale, with a CRM like Funnel automating much of the busy-work it would usually have taken your staff hours to do.

5. Mental health

Mental health has become a crucial area of concern for parents when deciding on the right school to send their children. Over the past few years and continuing today, parents are concerned over the potential negative mental effects of remote learning. Between the pandemic and children’s ever increasing screen time, it’s becoming increasingly important for parents to know their school can cater to the mental health needs and overall well-being of their children. Schools who can show a strong commitment to mental health and well-being will have a clear edge over school’s who fail to do so, and will show families that they’re truly committed to their students' overall student experience.

6. Staff positivity

Parents can tell a lot about your school’s culture from the enthusiasm of its staff. When attending an open day or school event, they'll likely pay attention to the attitudes of individual staff members and their interactions to try to get a sense of your atmosphere. A bad experience for parents here in the formative stages is not ideal, but by staying aware you'll be able to meet and exceed parent's expectations.

7. Reputation

As every school knows, your reputation is an important factor for families in the searching phase. Word of mouth, marketing material, and first hand experience gained through events can all go towards shaping your school’s reputation. Parents will likely try and get a feel for a school’s reputation by asking friends and other families, searching for you online, using review sites, or even by browsing social media.

8. Buildings and facilities

The overall condition of a school's buildings and facilities is one of the most visible factors when it comes to evaluating a school. While it may be out of the scope of school marketers and admissions pros, it’s important to get your facilities team engaged on the importance of first impressions when potential families visit. 

A great opportunity for your school can be your specific facilities that may be of interest to parents. Parents with athletic children will probably check out your sports centres, fields, and swimming pools. If their child is a musician, they'll probably check out the performance hall. If your school has a specific strength, you'll want to use it to your advantage as a selling point.

9. Policies

Next on a parents' list will be the actual policies of your school. There are common policies that every parent will want to know more about, such as bullying, canteens, sun safety, parent-teacher relationships, and more. Make sure your staff is ready to expand on your policies in an easy to understand, and clear way to  help parents have confidence that they’re child will be safe. Where possible, also having online resources available for families to find when your team is not on hand, also builds trust through transparency.

10. Values

One of the most fundamental factors for parents is your school's value system. Whether your school’s values are based on religious or cultural affiliation, or on specific social principles, it’s important for parents to know that your school follows through with its established values and identity. It's a good idea to introduce parents to relevant staff members who'll be able to run through any questions or concerns parents may have, early on in the admissions journey, especially in cases where there might be a mismatch between a family’s expectation, and your school's values.

11. Learning support programs

Many students require some extra support when it comes to their education. Not all students are the same, and parents will value schools which can provide more tailored support for their children. Students with disabilities and disorders may need special help from trained professionals. Additionally, students whose second language is the main language used at your school will need support to help them bridge any gaps caused by language differences. Having clear definitions of how this support looks at your school, can bolster future families’ confidence in how their child will adapt in their new school.

12. Class size

Class size is another factor that parents will look at, who generally prefer classes with less students. This can be a great selling point for your school if you have smaller class sizes, and one which you can frequently touch on with your marketing.

Wrapping up

Putting yourself into the shoes of your parents will give you a greater understanding of what they’re looking for in your school. By understanding what they want, you can focus your marketing efforts more accurately  and tailor your communication with your specific target audience, which will ultimately drive enrolments.  Once you know what your parents are looking for, you could do a competitor analysis, and make sure that your marketing efforts position your unique selling proposition clearly to future families.

Published 20 July 2022