Bring a Friend to School Day—Is It Right for Your School?

Vol. 13 No. 3

admissions eletter Vol13 No3 buddy

Many schools consider hosting a “Bring a Friend/Sibling to School Day” around this time of year. After all, friends and family have already been told about all of the wonderful opportunities your program and faculty provide. It makes sense to let prospective families get a taste of life at your school to encourage those who would otherwise not apply to do so.

However, events that sound good on paper can have unforeseen land mines—if not adequately anticipated. This month, let’s take a look at some of the advantages and obstacles that a “bring a friend to school” program might encounter.

A “real” school day?

Pro: Inviting a child to experience your school day for him/herself and meet potential teachers can provide a prospective family a compelling case for attending your school. Prospective students can see for themselves what learning at your school could be like, and compare it to their current educational situation—hopefully favorably! Parents, too, can see what it’s like for their children to return home excited about the day’s lessons and activities.

Con: At the same time, these day-long events are carefully choreographed and coordinated by your office and the teachers involved. No teacher can teach a normal lesson—visiting students would be lost or not knowledgeable enough to contribute—so accommodations are made. In the end, a “Bring a Friend to School” day may look more like a sophisticated, extended open house event and less like a typical day at your school.

Solution: Suggest that teachers have a hands-on activity related to their normal lessons, but one that does not depend on having extensive background knowledge and consistent class attendance to understand or enjoy. Maybe your rhetoric and government class can hold student debates that day, and the teacher invites the visiting students to judge which side wins. Perhaps the math class can have a geometry session using graph paper and protractors, exploring the properties of triangles.

Including Everyone—Unscreened

Pro: While seeking applications, you cast your net as wide as possible within your targeted demographic. Opening your school to close friends or siblings of current families could result in a larger pool of mission-appropriate applicant students.

Con: Still, some children may be disruptive or otherwise unsuited to your classrooms, despite their relationship with other mission-appropriate students and families. By inviting the students into your schools unscreened, you risk creating situations that otherwise would have been revealed during the initial admission process.

Solution: This is a tough situation to avoid. Talking to the “sponsoring” family and student about what their friend or sibling is like could help you anticipate potential troublemakers.

Great Attendance, Lack of Interest

Pro: By choosing to hold an event like this on a day when public schools would be closed—say, Election Day or a federal holiday—you would be enabling more students to attend than would otherwise be possible. (After all, by hosting a “Bring a Friend to School” day on a regular school day, the prospective student would be missing classwork at his or her own school!)

Con: Hosting the event on a day when parents would otherwise be scrambling for child care might attract desperate—rather than interested—families. Sure, they’d love to take advantage of what amounts to free babysitting, but you must determine whether they are serious candidates for admission.

Solution: Consider limiting attendance to those families and students who have submitted an application to the school. In this way, you ensure that these families have some “skin in the game,” as it were, and aren’t simply looking for convenient child care during an awkward day off.

Inviting prospective students into your classes for a day can seal the deal for parents on the fence about whether to apply to your school or not. Or, these students can cause chaos while their parents don’t bother applying at all. Only you know your school and community well enough to know whether “Bring a Friend to School” days are worth the gamble—and hopefully, you’ll avoid the pitfalls we’ve outlined here.

Additional ISM resources:
ISM Monthly Update for Admission Officers Vol. 12 No. 8 Double Trouble: Dealing With Siblings in Your Applicant Pool
ISM Monthly Update for Admission Officers Vol. 12 No. 1 How to Get Your Faculty Ready for Open House

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 34 No. 1 The Role of Faculty in Admission

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