One lesson I have learned in the world of admissions is the importance of the word intentional or intentionality in our communications to families. Intentionality is something that is done on purpose or intended and is synonymous with words such as designed and planned. Why is this so important and how can we use this word to promote our schools? Helping families understand that planning and intentionality are involved in all that takes place at our school reinforces our claims to be a quality institution.
All schools have mission and vision statements that are designed to be aspirational in nature. This is a good thing and these statements are intended to inspire our faculty, staff, and students as well as prospective families. One of the challenges that we face in school admissions is taking these aspirational statements and sharing how we accomplish them with the intended result of positively affecting students and families. Our goal is to paint for parents a picture of what they will receive by enrolling their child at our school.
Over the past 20 years (both in higher education and k-12), our survey work at Charter Oak Research as well as our direct work with school admissions personnel, we know that strong academics, providing a biblical worldview, Christian community and technology are key drivers for families as they investigate and make a school choice. We help schools promote these characteristics on their school media outlets and reinforce them in their communications plans to families. We also help schools discuss and identify these school distinctives during open houses, interviews and tours. Our goal is to take these distinctives and identify artifacts that prove their impact and effectiveness to our prospective families and students.
Depending on the market in which you serve, one question that should come to mind is how do you differentiate from another local Christian, Independent, charter or public school that will also be giving the same family a tour or welcoming them at an open house? What will you be able to share that will help have a positive impact on the family as they make their decision about where to enroll? It is important to strategize on the message that will be most effective knowing that prospective families could be visiting another school later that day or the following week.
One way I have found this can be done effectively is to consistently use words like intentional and intentionality in discussing some of the important features of the school. For example, all schools talk about having strong faculty. We see schools try to prove this distinctive by producing numbers such as the percentage of faculty that are state certified, have their advanced degrees, the average length of service and how faculty are involved in continuing education. A more powerful or intentional way could be to share how the school recruits and hires the best teachers and the process used to develop current teachers – emphasizing that the school takes the utmost care in choosing and developing those role models who will be with their children for 6-7 hours per day.
Curriculum is another common example to highlight. Each school, at some point, has made a decision on the curriculum that is going to be used. Instead of just communicating what was chosen discuss the research that was done in making the evaluation and why it is the best curriculum for the school and the students. Share with the family information about who was involved in the decision, the process, how the curriculum was implemented along with the training process that teachers went through to become experts. To give parents more comfort, share the plan on the curriculum evaluation and how you are ensuring that students meet learning outcomes throughout the year. If it has been a new change, highlight the reasons for the change and the outcomes that the school is hoping to achieve.
There are many other examples of distinctives that were once new and unique, but are now common in every school. The newness and the uniqueness have worn off, but the vision behind what was chosen is still relevant. A great example of this is 1:1 technology. Whether you were first in your market to move in this direction or not, most schools now have something similar to your program. Speaking to the intentionality of your school’s decision, how it benefits students and learning outcomes is what moves the program from a marketing initiative to a intentional feature that creates value for the family.
Every school discusses features like quality teachers, curriculum, technology, Christian community and biblical worldview in order to give families a picture of a well-run school – a place where decisions are based on research and collaboration. By speaking to the why and the how, you are showing intentionality to the process and design. It shows organization and allows you to tell your story through the different features of the school. It highlights your expertise, educates families and gives them confidence as they make a decision.
Think about anything that you have done that is important or lasting; you have most likely been intentional in your process. Whether saving for a house or parenting children, we intentionally make decisions on how best to achieve our goals. Scripture points to the importance of this kind of planning; Proverbs 21:5 says, “the plans of the diligent leads surely to abundance.” This principle of intentionality, when applied to school enrollment, will produce good and abundant fruit for your school.