Make 'em laugh. Make 'em cry. You'll make them want to apply to your school, attend your school, love your school, and give back to your school.
It's human nature to want to relate to what we see. When we're in a group of strangers, we gravitate towards those we believe are "like us." We search for jobs that we think will "fit us." We purchase products and services from companies that reflect our values. And choosing and independent school isn't any different.
You can have the greatest SEO and PPC campaigns in the industry, but if they link to a website that lacks emotion and dimension; it's a total loss.
When prospective students, and even more often, prospective parents visit your school's website, they want to feel three main emotions: belonging, confidence, and excitement.
Belonging: This is done by sharing visual content that shows that everyone fits in, is welcomed, and that there are plenty of opportunities for every skill set, in the classroom, on the field, in the library, or on the stage.
Confidence: How well is my money being invested? What are the programs like here? What are the faculty's credentials? Ease the concerns of parents (whose wallets keep getting lighter) by sharing the academic accolades of your school and introducing them to some star faculty members.
Excitement: It is the very core of what turns a prospect into an applicant. It is the content that triggers that long-term hopes and desires — that may have not even been realized — until they landed on your site. (Who else wishes they had a time machine to go back and do the Semester at Sea at St. George's, am I right?)
Using student testimonials, videos, and photos you can share the experience of your school that prospective students (that are a great fit) will relate to. Here's what you'll need to stir up some emotion and pull at those heartstrings on every page.
Craft a Great Tagline
Located on the homepage, finding the perfect way to say "this makes us unique" in just a few words is most likely the hardest part of designing your website.American School for the Deaf: "Changing Lives Since 1817"
What makes this tagline so great? First of all, it's simple and builds credibility. It's easy to remember, and impactful. But most importantly it hits the very core of what independent school, and specialized program schools are all about: you want to change the course of your life to something bigger and better. This tagline, packaged with the slideshow of close-up images of an array of students — makes this homepage a homerun.
The Blake School: "Daily round-trip flights to China, France, and Spain."
When I first read that, I really thought for a split second that there were round trip flights to those three countries. Call it an early-Friday-morning-I-still-haven't-had my-coffee kind of thing, or call it genius. Let's go with genius.
This tagline (although, obviously not the school's overall tagline) captures the adventurous hearts of prospective students. The best part about this feature on the homepage, is it changes on "refresh" so each time you visit the site, you'll be enticed with a new one.
Share a Relatable Video
Videos require thought, planning, time and resources, but will become the most valuable part of your website quickly. Including a diverse group of (happy!) students and activities will make prospective students feel a sense of belonging and excitement.
Their platinum award from the AVA Digital Awards was wasn't just because their websites look incredible — it's the rock-solid content that sells you on their school's experience. With a video built right into their header, St. Paul's School knows exactly how to appeal to their target audience by visualizing the experiences every student wants to have in school.
The Out-of-Door Academy: Out-of-Door Through the Eyes of Thor
To be blunt, emotion is the doorway to donor's wallets. And Out-of-Door Academy knows exactly what they're doing with their Out-of-Door through the Eyes of Thor video series. What is more adorable (and convincing) than a giant mascot high-fiving, learning, and playing with Out-of-Door students? Talk about pulling at heartstrings. I think a campaign this great would make even strangers ready to write a check.
Use Faculty Profiles and Student Testimonials
Student and faculty profiles and testimonials are absolutely essential. While faculty profiles give parents a sense of confidence in your school's academics, student testimonials give prospective student get a true sense of life at your school for "students like them."
Westtown School: Meet Our Friends
This content stirs up the thought, "that sounds like me!" — which is exactly what you want. Westtown School provides an opportunity right on their homepage to learn more about the different kinds of people that work at and learn at your school.
St. George's Prep: Meet Our Students / Meet Our Teachers
Right on the homepage, St. George's takes the time to introduce you to a few students and teachers. From exciting study abroad opportunities to nearly endless extracurriculars, St. George's Prep introduces you to students who have made the most of Life at the Hilltop — and it's every bit exciting as you would imagine.
The most compelling testimonial? "St. George's has made me happier than I ever thought possible." Now that's going to fill some seats.
Knowing how to ease the mind of parents, St. George's asks faculty some pretty pressing questions and shares their genuine answers.