What are you looking for?

How Two Schools Increased Applications and Yield Through Branding

Posted by on October 20th, 2016
Posted in Blog   

If you know what makes your school special, but struggle to put it into words, you’re not alone.

Maybe it’s easy for you, but you notice that none of your colleagues describe your school in quite the same way as you do.

When everyone describes your school in whatever haphazard way strikes them in the moment, you miss the chance to establish a clear, succinct brand. Most importantly, you are likely missing the chance to differentiate yourself from other schools.

For your school to shine, your faculty, staff, trustees, and volunteer leaders need to be in lock-step about the single big idea for which you want your school to be known. We call this your brand. When your brand powerfully signals who you are as a school – and who you aren’t – you make it easy for right-fit families to find you.

Five Things Your School Can Do to Increase Applicants

  1. Honestly analyze the brand – or reputation – you have now.
  2. Create a new brand strategy to accurately portray how you want to be perceived.
  3. Develop succinct, on-brand messages everyone can use to represent the school.
  4. Create a new on-brand admissions campaign that inspires existing and new families.
  5. Beat the drum of repetition and consistency.

Mission Minded recently helped two independent high schools in the San Francisco Bay Area, each of which had dramatic enrollment results, after investing in creating a stronger brand.

What can you learn from each that will help your school this admissions season?

Success Stories

Marin Academy – Everything is a Question


Marin Academy was founded with a distinctly progressive vision of education. A community of life-long learners, MA (as it is lovingly known) believes educational excellence should push the boundaries of what is known today to prepare students for the world we can’t even imagine tomorrow.

Mission Minded worked with the prestigious school to develop a new brand strategy, messaging framework, visual identity, fresh admissions materials, a redesigned alumni magazine, and website. It came down to this brand promise: at MA, Everything is a Question.

The impact is clear. MA had their strongest admissions season in history following their branding work with Mission Minded. Furthermore, their student-of-color applicant rate went up by 62%.

A brand rooted in a school’s authentic commitment to progress allows them to continually explore exactly how that evolves as the years go by. MA’s new brand proudly claims the school as a leader in progressive education. They don’t just offer experiential education as a component of their approach, they continually redefine education itself, always asking and encouraging the next question.

Drew School – The Drew Dynamic

Drew Schooldrew believes in teenagers—their ideas, their dreams, their opinions, and their potential. That’s why it challenges the traditional definition of success by defining achievement one student at a time.

Drew engaged Mission Minded to help identify and articulate what makes them unique in the competitive landscape of Bay Area independent schools. And here it is: Drew is the school that provides an engaging and intellectually challenging learning environment where students can explore their emerging interests and voices, like teenagers should.

Proudly and explicitly embracing this differentiation is a crucial part of the brand and messages we helped Drew develop.

With a brand strategy and key messages in hand, Mission Minded developed a new visual identity and an admissions campaign that includes printed materials, website, and their first admissions video.

The new rebrand and admissions campaign worked. Drew had the most successful admissions season in the school’s history, so much so that they had to add room in their incoming 9th-grade class.

For a great discussion on the benefits of school branding and how to do it well, check out my recent podcast with InspirED School Marketing.

For more information on how Mission Minded serves independent schools, click here.


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.

See all posts by