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How to Broaden Your School’s Applicant Pool

October 11, 2021 | read

Creating an effectively integrated school system is an ongoing struggle for school administrators, and creating a school that makes families want to travel outside their district can be even more of a challenge. Despite the inherent obstacles, private schools are finding a way to successfully broaden their application pool. Improving private school enrollment processes has become an effective way of recruiting and integrating a wider variety of students into the schools. Doing so creates a more positive learning environment and benefits students in many ways.

Broadening your school’s application pool can be more successful when you understand your community’s needs and consider how you can better reach different community members.

Set Goals

Before creating goals for improved enrollment, you first need to understand the types of applicants your school is currently attracting. Analyze the area your school occupies. Do you welcome all eligible students in the area, or do you have a smaller target population? Consider the demographics of the residents in the surrounding community. Are you in a predominantly affluent area? Are there a lot of single-parent families?

Chiefly, compare the demographics of the community and your school. As you analyze your current applicant pool, you may notice areas that fall short or are significantly lagging behind others. This phenomenon is common in many schools that don’t broaden their applicant pool, and it gives you areas to focus on. Form your goals for attracting more candidates based on your local population.

For example, say you find that 60% of residents use English as their second language, and only 12% of your school’s population falls into the same demographic. If you decide you want more of these students, you may set a goal of attracting families who speak a different primary language. Targeting this demographic could increase this population in your school to between 30 and 40%.

Whether you break it down by race, socioeconomic status, gender, culture, or a combination of demographics, it’s a good rule of thumb to aim to have a school population that reflects the surrounding community.

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Assess Your Application Process

Once you determine what the demographics for the area look like, assess your application process. The one you currently have in place may present barriers for populations that you’re trying to target. Analyze the current process and look for ways to make it more accessible for a broader group of people. Consider the following when assessing your application process:

  • How much time and resources are necessary to complete the application?
  • Where can people access the application?
  • Do families need to come to your school to apply?
  • Is there support for families who speak other languages?
  • Will families need technology or internet access to complete the application?
  • Do you require families to share information that could deter them from completing the application?
  • Are there uniform costs or other fees that may be out of the budget for low-income families?
  • Do you require families to supply transportation for students, or does the school provide transportation?
  • Is there a reduced-lunch program for families of lower socioeconomic status?
  • Does your school require auditions, interviews, or an application essay that could limit the admission of students with less experience?

Your application should be accessible to all people, especially the population you’re hoping to target. Remember, though everyone has different circumstances, they should all get an equal chance at completing their application. Of course, adjust as needed. With a more accessible application process, your school will become an option for a broader pool of applicants.

Understand Your Community’s Needs

Because families are primarily responsible for choosing where their children go to school, you should take time to learn what their priorities are and what they’re looking for in a school. Doing so can help you appeal to their wants and needs. An effective way to do this is through surveys. Surveying various families in the community can help you determine how to address parents’ needs when marketing your school’s values.

Using a combination of online surveys, phone surveys, group discussions, and focus groups, school leaders can reach a larger number of people for a more comprehensive understanding of the community’s needs. You should strive to include as many different demographics as possible to adequately accommodate more students of different backgrounds.

Surveying the community can provide several insights your school can use to improve enrollment. For example, you may discover that your school could:

  • Shift your recruitment tactics to highlight aspects of the school that appeal more to parents.
  • Use more inclusive language in promoting the school.
  • Incorporate different types of school models and teaching techniques.
  • Expand the curriculum to include college preparation or advanced placement classes.
  • Determine how willing families are to enroll students in schools outside the district they live in.
  • Waive fees for families below a specific socioeconomic status.

Use the information solicited from the surveys to appeal to your target populations. When you include aspects of a school system that the surrounding community desires, you’ll be more likely to attract a pool of applicants that has more variety. Displaying an interest in the community’s wants and needs demonstrates that your school has a genuine interest in providing education to more students.

If your school lacks the resources to conduct such large-scale research, surveying the current school community can also provide valuable insights. Having conversations with current students’ families allows you to determine how families found out about your school and what qualities appealed to them. You can also collect their thoughts on your application process.

Use Varied Recruitment Strategies

With changes to the application process and features that families are looking for, the next step to broaden private school application pools is to use various recruitment and marketing strategies that will reach your target populations and beyond. Consider how you will appeal to specific demographics based on information solicited through your research. Then, use two or more strategies like the ones below to get the word out about your school to new families.

Enlist Current Families’ Help

The current student population and their families can help spread the word and advertising your school. Volunteers, including enrolled students, staff, and families, can help share information about the school’s application process and culture. Passing out flyers, hanging posters, sharing social media posts, and putting up yard signs are ways your supporters can help promote your school.

Host Events for the Community

Community events are a fun and effective way to get prospective and currently enrolled families to interact and learn about your school. Hosting a street fair or carnival will attract a large crowd, thus letting you share information about the school with families while demonstrating your culture. These events can also be an excellent way to raise funds that support lower-income students.

To reach more people, you’ll have to advertise using a variety of channels. Creating advertisements for your school using several different formats ensures that more potential students can find you. Post advertisements in newspapers, at bus stops, on television, in radio spots, on social media, and in direct mailings.

You can target specific neighborhoods to advertise. For example, let’s say a significant percentage of the surrounding population speaks Spanish, and for the most part, they live in a concentrated area. Knowing this, you could write flyers in Spanish and buy airtime on Spanish-language TV channels and radio stations.

Tailored advertisements are another effective way to target a specific demographic. If you’ve connected with families who have expressed interest in your school, you can follow up with them using personalized calls and direct mailings. This strategy shows families you’re glad you connected with them and want to help them continue with the application process. Using the student or family’s name can go a long way in making them feel like a valued prospect.

Partner With Local Organizations

Partnering with local organizations can be an excellent way to find new prospective students from different backgrounds. If your school is looking to attract more families from lower economic brackets, find child care facilities and after-school centers for low-income families to promote and recommend your school to their customers. Local churches, recreation centers, and summer camps also make ideal partnerships. You may include these organizations in your events to help them promote themselves as you work together.

Admit Students Using a Lottery

Many private, charter, and magnet schools use a lottery system to randomly select qualified applicants for admission. Lottery admissions are a way to admit students equitably to avoid the unintentional overrepresentation of specific demographics. Some schools will automatically admit the most qualified prospective students from several groups and subgroups, then put the rest of the applicants into a drawing for possible admission.

However, lotteries can still contain an imbalance in the represented demographics, so it’s typically best practice to monitor the applications you receive so have an idea of what to expect and where to continue focusing your recruitment efforts.

Benefits of a Broad Application Pool

Broad application pools that include students from different ethnicities, religions, socioeconomic classes, personalities, academic achievements, family structures, and more can benefit students in many ways. As kids are growing and learning, they must encounter new people and ideas. When schools make an effort to admit students from all walks of life, it helps create a well-rounded and inclusive learning environment. Consider the following benefits of a variegated student body.

  • Improves critical thinking: Students get the opportunity to challenge their opinions when they have the chance to consider the perspectives of classmates from different backgrounds. Encountering novel viewpoints challenges students to think critically about the world and their beliefs. These settings will force them to think creatively, be more compassionate, and develop new problem-solving skills that they would otherwise miss out on.
  • Prepares students for the real world: Providing a foundation for the real world is arguably one of the most critical advantages of a broad applicant pool. As students enter college and adulthood, they’ll inevitably need to interact and work with people from varying backgrounds. While working with people of different mindsets can present some obstacles, doing so becomes even more of a challenge without experience. Gaining this exposure during early school years is beneficial preparation for future employment. In one study, 96% of surveyed employers claimed their employees must work with people from various backgrounds. Intentionally exposing students to different people builds these skills early.
  • Teaches students about culture: Exposure to different cultures allows students to learn about the world in a new way. While learning about cultural differences through textbooks is educational, it is more beneficial when students experience these differences through active class discussions and intercultural friendships.
  • Positive educational outcomes: A student body’s composition can impact a student’s educational achievements. Students who attend schools with varied student bodies do better academically than students in homogeneous schools. Exposure to different ideas and ways of life allows them to outperform their counterparts because they have more robust problem-solving skills.

Improve Private School Enrollment With Ravenna Solutions

While the application and enrollment processes can be time-consuming, they are essential. Ravenna can help simplify the process for administrators and families alike. Keeping track of documents and submitting applications all from one system makes our software ideal for families looking at multiple schools and school staff who are evaluating multi-part applications.

With Ravenna, school administrators can interact with leads and prospective students, process applications, and enroll students directly through the software. Families can manage their applications and events, accept enrollment, and even pay tuition via our software. Through Ravenna, your school will be more accessible and easier to find for prospective students and their families, which will allow you to broaden your private school application pool.

To learn how your school can receive up to 25% more applications in the first year with Ravenna, contact our support team or request a demo!

Nina Bernardi

Nina Bernardi

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