Your parent satisfaction surveys came back with overwhelmingly positive results. Your students are scoring higher on state testing than the regional average. You even upped your social media game this year with more community engagement than ever before. Your charter school seems to be doing everything right.
So why are you still having enrollment AND retention issues?
When it comes to your charter school’s efforts to attract, enroll, and retain families, sometimes the challenges begin much earlier in the admissions process — and those points of friction carry through the entire enrollment journey for families. As a result, you’re losing the remarkable students and families that help make your school community an amazing place.
If you’ve tried everything within your power, but you're still not meeting your goals, here are three things that might be hurting your charter school’s enrollment and retention rates.
1. You’re not making it easy for parents (or your team)
Nobody wants to download a PDF, fill it out by hand, and scan it back over to the school or worse yet, need to pop into your school’s admissions office for a paper application. If you can save parents from a trip to the post office, you’re already winning hearts and minds.
Use a mobile-friendly inquiry form
A truly “mobile-first” charter school website design with an easy-to-use form that maintains full functionality across all platforms is critical in empowering families during the admissions process. With many low-income families not having direct access to desktop or laptop computers, families are increasingly reliant on smartphones as their primary way to research your school.
The Academy of Charter Schools streamlines its inquiry process for its parents; their forms are branded, mobile-friendly, and completely powered by Finalsite Forms, which allows teams to quickly create forms that are responsive and accessible across all devices.
Set up automated workflows
Once families have inquired, admissions staff can enter parents into an automated Finalsite Workflow, delivering personalized emails based on timed sequences or engagement rates.
To better engage families, the Academy created a staggered three-email Workflow for enrollment lottery applicants:
• Email 1, day 2
• Email 2, day 5
• Email 3, day 10
Throughout the Workflow, families were sent a “thank you for applying” message, the offer to schedule a tour, and more information about the school with a link to its Why the Academy page. Now, no more manually sending one-off emails from the admissions or marketing staff enticing parents to formally apply —all the important work to nurture families is being done behind the scenes.
2. You’re not refining messaging and personalizing communications
You’d think engaging parents directly through email would do the trick, but without personalized communications, you risk losing the opportunity to build meaningful relationships. Some numbers suggest 74 percent of online consumers feel frustrated when content has nothing to do with their personal interests, while 97 percent of marketers see a rise in business outcomes as a result of personalization.
Throughout the admissions and enrollment process, you can automate and personalize each family’s step in the admissions process. With a dynamic inquiry form, you can start a meaningful dialogue with prospective families and send them content that actually gets their attention.
Chester Community Charter School uses Finalsite’s admissions software to gather personal interests and critical household information during the inquiry phase. Hobbies, interests, and personal passions — everything needed to follow up with personalized correspondence while getting your team actionable data.
Finalsite's admissions and enrollment management software (EMS) allows you to track your admissions communications and the subsequent engagement from parents in an easily digestible activity log.
This allows your team to refine its messaging at a macro level and see which emails resonate most with parents and garner the most engagement. At the micro level, you can see which parents need a follow-up reminder or even a phone call to make sure nobody is left in the dark.
3. You’re not clearly explaining your charter school's enrollment procedures
Charters are subject to enrollment standards that are often more complex and more stringent than public school districts. Without proper education on lottery systems and annual re-enrollment, the enrollment process might not seem as urgent to parents as it truly is.
A big piece of your charter school retention efforts is ensuring that families know if they need to re-enroll, when the deadline is, and how to complete the process. It's critical in helping prevent families from dropping the ball and not being able to re-enroll their children.
By being able to automate the communications directly from Finalsite’s admissions and enrollment management system (EMS), your teams can notify families and clarify important procedures about your enrollment process.
Unity Classical Charter School provides resources for families about its enrollment process, including information about its lottery system AND re-enrollment. No more email tag — staff can send reminders to families so parents can easily log in to Finalsite Enrollment and submit the necessary forms and registration to complete their reservation for the upcoming school year.
With something as important as your charter school's enrollment and retention, you can never over-explain the process to families or provide enough resources. With a streamlined and personalized process, you’re delivering the experience your charter families want and expect while saving your team the time it needs to build meaningful relationships.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.