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Did You Meet Your Enrollment Goals? If Not, Take a Look at Your Brand

Posted by on April 22nd, 2024
Posted in Blog, Independent Schools, Nonprofit Branding    Tags: , , , ,

a diverse group of school children stand posed together

It’s April. Is your school on track to meet your enrollment goals? 

For some schools, the happy answer will be in your raw numbers. You filled your seats without diving deep into your admissions pool. You feel confident that new families won’t change their minds before orientation day.

For other schools, the admissions season will continue into the summer and even the fall. If that describes your school, the first place to focus is your school’s brand.

Two key questions to ask yourself:

  1. Is your brand unique, bold, and clear enough to attract and retain families?
  2. And your brand is strong enough — are your admissions efforts working with your brand or against it?

Let’s explore both questions in a little more depth.

How to Strengthen Your School’s Brand

Not sure about your brand’s health? Ask yourself a few more questions:

  • Does your school’s brand invite and welcome diverse audiences? 
  • Are your new families excited by your mission and culture? 
  • Are they fired up for orientation day? 
  • Are existing families united, energetic ambassadors of your mission? 
  • Do they understand how you are truly different from other schools?

If the answer to any of these questions is NO, then your school will benefit from a strategic and disciplined effort to strengthen your brand.

Remember, your brand isn’t a logo or mission statement. It’s your reputation. It’s that big idea that comes to mind for families when they hear your name or see your logo. Some examples from the corporate world:

  • Red Bull’s reputation is energy — it “gives you wings”
  • Apple’s brand stands for innovation 

It’s not enough that your school community believes it is special, or that you’re a “best kept secret.” You can’t hope families will feel how you’re unique when they visit your campus. You have to show them what you offer that they can’t get anywhere else. 

To strengthen your brand, you must articulate it, then unite behind it. Your brand’s big idea has to ignite families and students. It must offer something they value, and clearly differentiates you from all the other schools they are considering — public, private, and charter. (Read our “What’s So Special About You?” post for more about brand positioning.)

When you can send strong signals to families about your brand and community experience before they’ve ever set foot on campus, you’re one step ahead in communicating your unique value. When families see what you offer students as indispensable and not found elsewhere, they’ll choose you with unhesitating enthusiasm. But, if:

  • Your brand and its value aren’t crystal clear,
  • Families see you as similar to other schools,
  • Families just aren’t sure what you stand for

Then it’s harder to attract their interest and support.

Final note: If you’re struggling with your brand strategy, you may need a bolder strategic plan.

Takeaway: The more clearly you position your school’s brand as valuable and unique, the stronger your admissions funnel and your enrollment results will be.

Keep Your Admissions Communications On Track With Your Brand

With a strong brand, your school almost sells itself to families. But not if you go rogue, creating admissions communications that don’t align with your brand.

If you think you have to come up with a new set of messages each year, or a new theme for that viewbook or video, you’re probably not embracing your brand as strongly as you should.

Or maybe your admissions messages have become caught up in a features and programs race. By trying to offer all things for all families to fill those empty seats, you dilute your brand’s clarity.

Your brand strategy and messages should form the bedrock of all admissions communications. Use them repeatedly. Look to them first when you communicate anything to prospective families. 

Repetition of your key brand messages is what actually helps families understand you.

To them, the repetition is comforting. If you change up your language so the messages on tours don’t match what’s on your website, and are different still from your video and viewbook, families won’t clearly understand you — which means they definitely won’t have the confidence to choose you.

So be consistent — year after year and throughout each admissions season — so families are clear, enthusiastic, and assured.

Added bonus: The more you show up looking and sounding consistent with your brand, the stronger your brand becomes. And the stronger the brand, the more enrollment (and fundraising) success you’ll continue to have.

Takeaway: Let your existing brand strategy and key messages be the guide for all family communications.

Take action on your brand

When your community truly understands your why — the impact and value of your approach — you unlock endless possibilities for your school’s future. Mission Minded’s brand strategies are built on an inclusive methodology rooted in close partnership with you. Together, we’ll uncover the unapologetically bold idea that you and your school community can rally behind, setting your school up for its next level of impact. Let’s talk more about what you need to succeed.

Learn how to activate your brand strategy with some of our free how-to’s, ensuring your school communications are as strong and unique as the school itself:


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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