A 2014 survey conducted by the Enrollment Management Association revealed that academic caliber and classroom experience are by far the most important factors families consider when choosing private school. Ninety-seven percent of respondents said a challenging education for their child was most important, while only 77% said emotional and social development was most important.
Then, just this year, NAIS released survey research from Heads of School, where they noted that academics will be the most important aspect of their marketing strategy over the next five years.
Here's what these stats tell us:
- The quality of the academic experience needs to be apparent on the homepage
- There needs to be a landing page with strong, compelling content around academics
- You don't need that fancy college matriculation slider on the homepage — rather invest your time into an infographic or another design treatment that boasts academics
Despite this, many school websites don't put enough emphasis on marketing their academics. While academics aren't as "cool" or exciting as athletics, travel abroad programs, or campus life...it is what matters most according to parents and heads of school.
To improve the marketing of your school's academics on your website, you'll need to focus on two areas: your homepage and your academics landing page.
Your School's Homepage
Want an example of a school who knows how to go all-in with marketing their academics? Check out Lausanne Collegiate School's homepage, which is unequivocally dedicated to showcasing the school's remarkable, innovative, and global academics. And when you click to learn more, you'll be brought this this engaging landing page that truly sells the school's academic programs.
For most schools, this won't be the norm. Lausanne's main value proposition in all of their marketing is their academics, so of course this will be their primary focus. Rather, your school's website will most likely dedicate a panel to your academics with a call-to-action button that goes directly to the landing page.
Take a note from Avon Old Farms' award-winning site that introduces the school's academic rigor in the first panel:
Like Lausanne's homepage, this call-to-action links to a compelling landing page, packed with videos, testimonials, and general information about the school's academics.
Another way to promote your school's academics on the homepage is through the use of an infographic, which makes information about your school's academics easy to digest. We love Lauralton Hall's bold statement here:
Your Academics landing page is the page on which a website visitor will land when they click "Academics" in your main navigation, or a call-to-action on your homepage. This means you have one opportunity to really sell your school's academic programs.
Here's what you'll need to earn your "Academics" page a gold star:
Tell a Story
While prospective families will want to read about your academic programs, they'll also want to see them. In other words — show what it's like inside the classroom, don't tell. It's easy to say "our teachers foster a joy of learning," but you'll make much more of an impact if you can show that joy of learning actually happening.
GCDS keeps this academic overview page simple, yet engaging. The scrolling experience accompanied by minimal text, testimonials, and bright, vivid photos of life inside the classroom gives prospective families and up-close-and-personal look of the experience their child would have at the school.
Have a Value Proposition
While it is important that the H1 tag and page title contain the term "academics" for SEO purposes, having a value proposition that describes what sets your school's academics apart is key for capturing your users' attention quickly.
For example, Harker School boasts that the school's innovative curriculum inspires success starting in the lower school. This value proposition pinpoints the school's academic rigor and excellence.
St. Sebastian's School sells the value of their school's academics throughout the entire landing page, using a value proposition, infographics and testimonials. Located in Needham, MA, St. Sebastian's is in a highly competitive market, and building a page like this is a key part of their digital marketing and admissions strategy.
Craft the perfect value proposition with this free worksheet and template.
Separate Content for Different Divisions or Campuses if Necessary
If your school has lower, middle, and upper school academic programs, it's important to give each of them their own story. Keep your school's particular mission and vision for its academics on a landing page, and then divide specific academic content by program.
For example, Sidwell Friends School uses their Academics landing page to provide an interactive overview of the school's academics, while also using calls-to-action to direct website visitors to the content that interests them.
On each school's page, you'll find a video, testimonials, and blog content by school to offer a more authentic, inside-look at the school's programs.
Provide An Organized Overview of Your Course Offerings
If your school has a lot of different classes, it's easy to quickly bog down your "Academics" section with content. If you want to share all the classes your school offers, don't put this on your main landing page. Rather, use an interior page to share this kind of detailed content.
Canterbury School does an excellent job of organizing their programs with accordions, making it easy for prospective families to see all the courses the school has to offer.
In addition to the variety of courses, in many cases the complexity of courses needs to be explained.International High School uses this infographic to explain the map of courses students take over the course of their career to graduate with a French IB or regular IB degree.
Use Authentic Content
Today's consumer is being marketed to 24-7, so it's becoming easier to block out the noise — the stories that don't relate to them, and the content that doesn't speak to them personally. Saying your school has 24 AP classes is impressive — but what are the results of those AP classes? What did your students learn? How will that help them be successful?
Prospective families want to hear first-hand from students about the academics at your school — not necessarily from your marketing team.
Aaron Schorn, Hawai'i Preparatory Academy's webmaster, depends on authentic content to sell the value of the school's academics.
This content, in particular, plays a huge role on the school's academics page. It showcases two student-produced videos about the academic programs at HPA, and serves a unique dual purpose: to tell a real story from the perspective of a student and to show a real result of the school's programs.
If you don't have the resources to create videos like HPA, opt for student and faculty written pieces or video testimonials to provide that authentic look at the difference academics can make.
With a growing importance on your school's academics, a simple text-only interior page isn't enough to sell your school's academics — especially if you're in a highly competitive market. To better market your schools academics, you'll need the following:
- A panel on your homepage with a call-to-action button that leads to a landing page
- A video, or photos to help tell the story
- Infographics or compelling statistics
- Organized content
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.