Four Steps for Cultivating Better Relationships With BIPOC Students

4 Steps for Cultivating Better Relationships With BIPOC Students
4 Steps for Cultivating Better Relationships With BIPOC Students

School Heads

The relationships between your school and your students do not begin and end with admission and graduation. Recruiting, retaining, and engaging students and alumni is only successful when time and effort is put toward lasting, ongoing relationships.

When it comes to building relationships with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students, you must lead with intentionality and genuine drive to see these students thrive. Your school must develop a framework for enrollment management, marketing, and development that effectively engages your BIPOC community.

Track Trends

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 5.7 million students are expected to enroll in private schools this year. In a demographic breakdown from the 2017–18 school year, 67% of private elementary and secondary school students were White, 11% were Hispanic, 9% were Black, 6% were Asian, and 5% reported a multi-racial background. Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native students each constituted 1% of private school enrollment in 2017.

Pay attention to these demographics to help shape your strategy for working with students. Ask:

  • What is the racial and ethnic makeup of our current and prospective students?
  • How are racial and ethnic populations expected to change in our region?
  • What are the implications of those changes for our admission and marketing plans?

It is important to have the right data about your students. However, many administrators express concern about asking for race and ethnicity on applications.

A better approach—one that helps build relationships—is to gather this information during the interview process. You can collect the demographic information you need in a personable and relatable way. These conversations can give you more information about prospective students than even the student’s essay.


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Pay Attention to Your School’s Story

Your marketing, development, and enrollment management efforts are rooted in storytelling. All internal and external communications must use the same messages to share your mission statement and value proposition. Take an inventory of your website. Do you showcase all races and ethnicities in your community? Will BIPOC students see children who look like them in your materials?

You should also ensure your demographic data is up to date, reflecting domestic students, international students, and employees. All your school data and resources for students and families must be readily accessible. Transparency is key.

Provide Diversity Training

When it comes to students, their backgrounds, and their experiences, one approach does not fit all. Every member of your school staff should be mandated to participate in intentional and consistent diversity, equity, and inclusion training. This will ensure that they are able to respond to students effectively.

Evaluate professional development opportunities for your entire staff. Determine where training needs to start, what it needs to emphasize, and how it will address DEI in your school.

Review Your Efforts and Make Improvements

Ask yourself some critical questions.

  • Does our school track how we successfully engage BIPOC students and alumni?
  • If so, where does our school perform best and where is improvement needed?

Every department and leader should ask these questions. When enrollment management, development, and marketing work together to cultivate relationships with BIPOC students, prospective and current families will feel your comprehensive support. Ensure you’re following these steps to support your community and strengthen your school.


New School Head Coaching

You don’t have to figure out how to be a new Head on your own. ISM’s New School Head Coaching allows you to work one-on-one with an ISM Consultant for one calendar year. This service, designed for Heads within the first three years of their headship, is custom-designed for your specific needs to help you deliver your school’s mission with excellence.



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