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3 Musts for a Stand-Out Admissions Campaign This Year

Posted by on July 6th, 2020
Posted in Blog, Independent Schools   

This fall your school’s admissions campaign will have to work harder than ever before. How can you focus your campaign theme and messaging to ensure your school stands out, while authentically reflecting these unique times? Learn the three points of focus your admissions campaign must have to be effective in 2020/21.

1. Avoid the Temptation to Go Exclusively Digital

Print materials feel more valuable right now. People are desperate for contact. A tactile sensation carries more weight, literally and therefore emotionally. While digital experiences like virtual campus tours, and the chance to hear from current parents and students, will also be critical to your success, something families can hold in their hands and — and revisit during admissions season — will help ensure the ideas that distinguish your school stay top-of-mind.

2. Make Everything a Visceral Experience for Families.

This is not a time for same old, same old printed pieces! Your viewbook should offer families a visceral experience that reinforces your school’s brand, including your values and what truly makes your education unique. Ideally, your viewbook at any time offers families a peek into what being part of your community really feels like. That will be doubly important this season as families are unlikely to experience your campus, or see students, teachers, and classrooms in action.

Hopefully by now schools understand that the viewbook, printed or digital, is not a place to list all of the classes, extra-curriculars, and details about their school. Instead it should be an experience that carries families away into the feeling of the school, your community, and your unique approach to education. Making the investment in a stand-out piece will pay off. Especially because online learning is likely to be in the mix next year. So this is your chance to demonstrate to families—in a non-standard way—how students who are not physically together experience deep learning, meaning, and a sense of connection.

When we worked with Marin Academy in San Rafael, California to build their brand strategy and resulting admissions campaign the admissions search piece we designed was anything but expected. A community of lifelong learners, Marin Academy believes in pushing the boundaries of what is known today to prepare students for a world we can’t even imagine tomorrow, which means “everything is a question” at MA. Instead of a mini version of the printed viewbook brochure, which itself took a non-traditional approach, we developed an interactive “fortune teller” for students. Admissions materials unfold and invite the reader to think, question, and even create—mirroring Marin Academy’s aim to stimulate and stretch all the facets of a young mind.

So don’t just come up with something gimmicky to get attention. Think creatively about what you can create and share that will help families feel how special your school really is.

3. Be Part of the Conversation

The realities of today: isolation caused by social distancing; fears about the future; financial uncertainty; upheaval and reckoning with our country’s systemic racism, and the hope that a shift is truly under way are all part of your families’ state of mind. Don’t shy away from demonstrating how your school’s values, pedagogy, or both are part of the interplay of today and what benefits that will accrue to students.

Last year when we launched the new brand and admissions campaign for Army & Navy Academy the school directly addressed issues of toxic masculinity holding the standard that men and boys learning who they really are is the goal so they can take their place in society. This admissions video reinforces for families that ANA sees and will help bring out the very best in each student.

Similarly, our work with Cathedral School for Boys in San Francisco resulted in a powerful brand idea: Raise the bar on raising boys. This fit beautifully into the national conversation on #metoo, but they didn’t invent this to be relevant. They dug deeply into their values to excavate the part of themselves most resonate with parents of young boys today: How to raise them in a world that sends a cornucopia of mixed messages on what it means to be a man.

Similarly, we’re working with a small, all-girls boarding school in Virginia that plans to lean on the value of being in a beautiful, remote location that allows for more physical safety in a time of pandemic, and reinforcing their belief that young women can and will be part of addressing the world’s biggest challenges.

Don’t be afraid to dive directly into the social fabric conversations that every family is having or you risk seeming out of touch and potentially irrelevant. Instead, show how you’re brave, vulnerable, or both by directly addressing these topics with a focus on how students will have the chance to address them in productive and healthy ways.

Want more tips on how to elevate your school’s admissions campaign this year? Join us for an Enrollment Management Association on-demand online course later this month led by Mission Minded Founding Partner Jennie Winton, which is included with registration to this year’s EMA Annual Conference.


Jennie Winton is a Founding Partner of Mission Minded, a 25-year marketing veteran sought for her expertise in branding nonprofit organizations, and a one-on-one leadership coach.

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