Open House Timing

This week’s article is geared toward Catholic schools, but only because there’s a “Catholic Schools Week.” I know there’s been a movement afoot to celebrate “Christian Schools Month” in February, so this Marketing Matters column could easily apply to Christian schools too.

It’s hard to believe, but we’re nearing the end of the first 9 week reporting period. Even some colleges and universities are out on mid-semester break. In that spirit, here’s a little mid-term exam. It’s a one-question test, and your entire grade rides on a correct answer to this question:

When is the best time to have an Open House event?

A) After Catholic Schools Week
B) During Catholic Schools Week
C) This Week
D) Every Week
E) Every Day

Sounds like an SAT question, since there could be several right answers. But in the spirit of the SAT, there are usually two that can be discarded, and the choice then comes between the two remaining.  In this case, we have 5 possible answers, only because times have changed in the past few years.

What about A)? This is one that you can eliminate, since Catholic Schools Week is in January. If you wait until February or later to have your open house, parents, for the most part, have already made up their minds as to where their children will be attending the following year. That’s because today’s parents of young children have gone to college, and therefore know that you have to do everything a year prior to the time that a decision will be expected. If you’re going to college, you should apply during your Junior Year in high school. Early admissions takes place from the mid-point of the Junior Year to its end, meaning that the year before college, a student will already know where he or she is attending once the Senior Year starts. The problem – they can become lackadaisical rather than sharpening their study skills, causing the first semester of college to be very difficult academically.

What about B)? Could be right, since open houses are traditionally held during Catholic Schools Week. But the question asks for the “best time,” and during Catholic Schools Week would qualify for a “good time,” or “the usual time.” This answer is also incorrect because it’s not “the best time” to have an open house.

That takes us to C), D) and E) as the remaining choices. C) and D) can be thought of as the same answer, since next week, “this weeK’ would be correct.  However, you would have to plan for one to be held “every week.”  Therefore, E) is the correct choice.

Elementary schools know that Millennial parents will simply show up at their doorstep at a time that is convenient for them…not necessarily when an event such as a open house is scheduled.   Their lives are simply too busy with other scheduled events, like doctors appointments and sport activities.  There are some high schools leaders I know that think this will change when these parents get to high school (which, if it isn’t happening already, it will – either next year or the following year, and then it will be that way for the next 20 years).

The back page of the Pittsburgh Catholic (164th year, CLXIV, No. 30) of October 10, 2008 showed the Catholic High Schools of the Diocese with Open House dates ranging from Sunday, October 12, to Saturday, November 15. Some schools have two open houses scheduled, but some have only 1, with another day set aside for 8th Grade visits.

Now you’re probably saying, “But these are high schools…they have to have placement tests, so of course they would start this early. I l lead an elementary school, so I don’t have to start until Catholic Schools Week.” If that’s what you’re thinking, then you apparently did not read the first part of this Marketing Matter. In today’s world, school is school. Consider that today’s average elementary school tuition is more than what private university tuition was 30 years ago in 1983. Consider that today’s parents of young children entering elementary school are the Millennials, which some have called the “us” generation, or the “like me” generation, and even the “me me me,” generation!  They remember how school affected them personally, so that has shaped their experience – especially when it comes to dealing with how they educate their children.

Waiting until Catholic Schools Week was great when it was assumed that the children of the parish would be enrolled in the parish school to be taught by the good sisters and parents would be charged very little, if any, tuition. Besides, if other elementary schools are doing their open houses earlier, a parental decision may have already been made by the time your school gets everything ready for Catholic Schools Week – or later – for an open house.

Catholic Schools Week is the time to “solidify” your enrollment. “Now is the acceptable time” to show your school to those interested in enrolling their children.  And when is “now?”  Whenever a parent shows up at your door.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2008-2018 (Original Publication Date: 20081013)