A Happy New Year to you!! (Insert sound effect of party horn here). For classroom teachers and our schools’ children, it’s the start of the year for the Class of 2022.
For those involved in marketing, enrollment, retention and enrollment, it’s the start of the 2022-2023 year…and no, that’s not a mistake. If you’re thinking, “He’s got to be kidding,” think of the high school senior that enters the classroom today. Is his mind focused on trigonometry and physics he’s taking this year? Or is it on the SAT he’ll be taking in next month so he can get into the college of his choice? His class schedule was finalized at the end of the previous school year, so this year is already a done deal.
Another example: Is the high school senior focused on her U.S. Government and German IV courses? Or is she more concerned about if she’ll be able to go to the open house at the college that she really wants to go to, hoping Open House Weekend doesn’t conflict with a mandatory chorus concert? Or will it even allow on-site visits due to another coronavirus variant that wreaks havoc on college campuses?
Planning for next year starts NOW! And, especially for Catholic schools, NOT during Catholic Schools Week.
About fifteen years ago, colleges were using IM (for those of you that don’t remember, that stood for Instant Messaging) to communicate with prospective students. Today, a prospective student’s “preferred method of communication” has gone beyond home telephone numbers, email addresses (yes, emailing a Millennial is the equivalent of the telemarketing phone call) and IMing. It’s texting, tweeting and writing on a Facebook wall. At the time when colleges and universities were just beginning to get on the IM bandwagon, things changed, and today, “instantaneous” communication is being continuously redefined through handheld computers (aka, a phone), tablets and apps. The future now arrives yesterday.
Think you’re too busy right now to start planning for 2022-2023 because there’s STILL so much to be done for this year, like looking for teachers because nobody wants to be in a classroom where you haven’t mandated masks? Want to stick to the way you’ve been doing it for the past decade, and plan to kick off enrollment efforts after the 1st of the year? If you continue to do things the way you’ve always done them, I would wager that, at some point in the near future, you won’t be busy during the start of the school year. Why? Because the school won’t need “next year’s” Kindergarten class when the decision is made to close its doors permanently.
Think that’s harsh? Think of it this way. If enrollment efforts kick off in January, and a school’s finance council prepares its budget in February considering unpaid tuition, unconfirmed returning families, and only a few new families that have toured the school after the holidays (if any), the decision to close the school is an easier one to make than if 90% of current families are already committed to the following school year, open houses have been held in September, October and November, and only a handful of families have fallen behind in their tuition payment obligations. Starting your efforts now will give you 5 extra months to surpass your school’s current Kindergarten enrollment and retain most of the students currently enrolled in your school.
The early you can begin your sales cycle, the sooner you can solidify next year’s finances. And, before an enrollment (read, “sales,”) conversation can begin, your school’s marketing needs to be in full swing! Make it so.
© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2006-2021 (Original Publication Date: 20060828)