I normally start my blogs on a positive note, but today, I need to get serious for a moment…
Many schools are struggling with enrollment. The New York Times wrote last year that public school enrollment has seen a sharp decline, with 1.2 million fewer K-12 students enrolled in 2022 compared to 2020.
We can blame the pandemic for part of this trend, of course, as many families opted to homeschool their kids or enroll them in a private school with different COVID restrictions. Many people in my audience work for these private schools and have seen their enrollment increase quite a bit in the last 2-3 years.
But the pandemic isn’t the only culprit for decreasing enrollment, and it’s not only public schools that are affected. Depending on where you live in the country, populations are shifting – from urban to suburban and from suburban to rural – as families look for lower-cost-of-living places to live. In other regions, it’s the rural schools that are having an issue with enrollment. Zoom out even further, and we can see that birth rates are declining which impacts the number of school-age children in our country.
Many states (like my home state of Wisconsin) also allow open enrollment among public school systems, which increases competition between neighboring districts. Decreased enrollment also means decreased funding, and many districts I talk to are facing budget shortfalls. Very few schools are immune to the worry of decreasing enrollment!
Private, charter, online, and parochial schools also face their own enrollment challenges. Inflation or job loss can affect a family’s ability to afford tuition fees. For the families who can still afford the tuition, those higher fees are often accompanied by higher expectations and pressures placed on the school, in order to keep retention high. Many non-public schools feel like they need to recruit year-round – it never seems to end.
“Andrea, what’s with all this doom and gloom!?”
I just want to underscore what most school leaders already know: School enrollment is a concern, and school communicators are asked to help!
To support you in your efforts to increase and maintain student enrollment, I’ve compiled a bunch of social media ideas to inspire you.
Create Polished Videos
Dothan City Early Education Center Recruiting Video: This short, engaging video features smiling faces and upbeat interviews that underscore what makes this school special.
Not every video needs to be professionally produced. You can clip together footage of students, teachers, and staff, and add background music, like this video from Random Lake School District. I love how this video features clips of students saying “I am #RLAdvantage” as it reinforces the brand and district hashtag.
If you have some extra marketing dollars, I recommend my friends at Captivate Media + Consulting for polished, professional video production.
Share Enrollment Instructions Early & Often
This enrollment reminder from Howard-Suamico School District isn’t flashy but it gets the job done! A photo of children helps make the graphic pop, and families are able to get all the information they need about starting the enrollment process from the concise caption.
Alexandria Public Schools accomplishes this same goal with a brightly designed enrollment graphic and informative caption.
Your posts can also feature all the unique “selling points” of your school, like this post from Santa Ana Unified School District. If you have too many “key points” to put onto a graphic, don’t be afraid to use bullets or fun emojis in your caption, instead. Each of these statements could also become inspiration for separate posts.
Highlight Special Enrollment Events
St. Cloud Cathedral High School hosts an open house to invite prospective families to see the school, as highlighted in this inviting post. You can create posts, Facebook events, and even videos to invite people to your open house events.
Here’s another great example from Lake Area Discovery Center – I love the engaging photo!
Use Clear Calls to Action
Your call to action on enrollment social media posts can be short and sweet!
If you just need families to head over to a specific page of your website, go ahead and create a simple graphic, like this one from Parkview School District, upload it to your page, and put the link into the caption. You can house all information about enrollment on that landing page, instead of worrying about updating multiple social media posts if the details change.
Arcadia Unified School District takes a more celebratory approach with this social media post. Not only does the post briefly explain enrollment and give the website link, but it also asks families to “tag” and “share” the post to spread the word. Great idea!
If your school has a blog that relates to enrollment, pull the best photo from that blog and post it on social media, with a link in the caption. If your enrollment process involves multiple steps, consider creating a video or special landing page that clearly breaks them down.
Do you have a process in place for collecting success stories, reviews, and testimonials from parents, students, and staff? If not, consider starting one today!
This doesn’t have to be complicated – as my Chief People Officer Stephanie Sinz always says, “Keep It Simple, Sweetie.” Let families tell their stories in their own words!
Start out with just a document where you just copy and paste positive comments from social media posts and online reviews. Enlist the help of your colleagues, and ask them to send you a note when they have a family who is really happy with their experience. Take some time to chat with that family, and capture their testimonial in a written or video form.
Once you have testimonials (and permission to use names, of course), you can put them on graphics, use them in social media captions, and create compilation videos. Here are two examples:
Celebrate, Celebrate, Celebrate!
Listen, you do NOT need formal “I love my school because…” statements from your students and staff to convey this sentiment. You do NOT need to invest thousands of marketing dollars in a fancy campaign.
Often, the best and most effective “proof” of your school’s greatness is simple, everyday classroom moments and positive stories! This happens all year round, not just when you’re actively enrolling.
One of our schools received direct feedback from a parent that was new to the district. She said that while researching places to build their new home, they chose to build in this particular district because of how inviting the school was on social media. Even their daughter got excited about her new school, after seeing the photos shared!
Clear photos of kids’ faces + a consistent posting schedule + and engaging social media captions = your recipe for success.
Not sure where to start? These blogs walk you through the process of gathering stories your community will love to see and creating engaging captions to help you stand out.
I hope this blog has motivated you to take some steps, today, to help support your school’s enrollment efforts. Reach out to me on Twitter with any thoughts or questions!