Being a "Hidden Gem" Is Bad for Enrollment

Imagine a school nestled in a residential community. The campus is handsome but not easily seen from outside its boundaries. The students, too, are barely visible, since they arrive by bus and car, play sports on fields behind the school, and may only venture out to grab snacks at the 7-11. When talking about the school, the internal community calls it a "hidden gem"...proudly.

Guess what? "Hidden gem" is a terrible attribute for enrollment. It means no one knows your school is there, who you serve or why, or why your education is worth every penny of the tuition you charge. Being a hidden gem means administrators have to work harder to bring in new students, raise money, build brand awareness, and make critical connections to leaders in the local community.

Is this your school?  If so, it's time to raise your school's local profile and get it known for what it should be known for. How can you do that?

Get the community on campus:

  • Invite local residents to periodic events, especially mission-based events, on campus, so they can see it and meet students and faculty. Sponsor a 5K run or a fair for schools, summer camps, or colleges. Hold a fundraiser for a local cause, and invite the press, prospective families, and local dignitaries. Screen films on educational topics or offer a free speaker series. If speakers are faculty (and wouldn’t that be awesome?), it establishes them as experts.

  • Rent or lend some of your facilities during off-use hours. Ask renters to use the school logo on their promotional materials. Be sure there are displays such as digital kiosks that talk about the school in areas where the public enters and have racks with enrollment materials there as well. (See InspirED’s blog post on facility rental.)

  • Host an event for your peer schools such as a workshop or a regional association meeting.

  • Host a TED-X event like George School did that brings local, regional, national and international attention.

Get your students into the community:

  • Have them volunteer, sing, or put on plays. The Hill School in Pottstown, PA, has Walkabout Wednesdays, when students go into the community to do service. Make sure students wear branded school clothing.

  • Give students (and faculty) guidelines about how they represent the school in public at all times, especially when wearing branded clothing.

And of course, brand your school well. Make sure that enrollment materials, ads, signage, and all marketing efforts adhere to your school's brand messages and graphic identity.

It's amazing how fast a school can go from being well hidden to well known.

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