Host a Preview Party to Boost Enrollment

Vol. 16 No. 6

advancement eletter Vol16 No6 schoolparty

You’re no stranger to tight competition when it comes to student enrollment at private-independent schools. While you work diligently to offer admission to mission-appropriate students, they must then decide to enroll at your school over others in the marketplace.

One way to encourage enrollment once offers have been extended is to host a preview party. A preview party invites all students to whom you’ve offered entrance to gather on campus, meet members of your faculty and staff, and gain a sense of your unique school community.

Preview Party Planning Tips

This party must be planned at the optimal time. Whether you decide to hold one large event or individual parties by division, parties must be held after offers are extended but before students make a decision. You want the party to coincide with the excitement of receiving an offer and reinforce positive feelings about your school.

Extend preview party invitations to accepted students along with your enrollment offers. Then have student ambassadors reach out personally to your invitees a few days before the party. Hold the party at night or on the weekend so prospective students and their families can attend.

Structuring the Evening

A preview party should be equal parts informative and fun. Open the evening with a five-to-10 minute speech from your School Head that welcomes attendees and highlights why students would want to attend your school.

The Head then announces a question-and-answer session with a student panel. Tap 11 or 12 current students who represent a range of grade levels and a realistic cross-section of the student body to be "student ambassadors." The Head moderates and illustrates that these students know your school better than anyone else and can share their experiences with prospective attendees.

Be sure to help your student panelists prepare before their event. Help them put together talking points that you agree on and that they know your school’s competitive advantages. You should also help them prepare to answer difficult questions and let them know that they can look to the Head if they feel stuck or aren’t sure how to respond.

Once the panel ends, you may ask your theater students to put on a short performance, your music students to play a few songs, or your student athletes to talk about upcoming games or recent big wins. Highlight what makes your school unique and help prospective students and their families feel like they want to join your community.

Spurring Relationships

Leave time for mingling after the presentations. Administrators, faculty, staff, current students, and even current parents can attend and talk to prospective families in a one-on-one setting. Make sure everyone has a name tag, and that prospective parents and students can be easily identified by the color or design of their badge. Move around the room, ensuring everyone’s questions are answered, connecting people who share similar interests or concerns, and keeping everyone included.

Continually refine your recruitment process in your search for mission-appropriate students. Your job is to attract a viable group of prospective families, keep in touch with them, and provide the information they need—without overwhelming them. A preview party can be a productive addition to your recruitment strategies.

Looking for more enrollment management tips? Join us during Summer Institute 2018 in Wilmington, DE, for Mastering Enrollment Management. This workshop, hosted by ISM Consultant Amy Riley, takes place June 19–22 and helps attendees get the “big picture” view of the factors most impacting their hard-income bottom line—their market position, their school culture, and the way they take care of their primary constituents—students and their families.

Additional ISM Resources:
The Source for Advancement Vol. 11 No. 3 ‘Tis the Season for Service … and Open Houses
The Source for Advancement Vol. 13 No. 2 Open House Tips and Tricks

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 33 No. 5 Parent Relations in the Pre-enrollment Period

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