I recently conducted a phone survey for a client of full-pay parents who decided not to accept the offer of admission to the school to determine why they made that choice. One of them reported, "XYZ School [the one they chose] is ranked number 1 in the country." I was suspicious of this declaration for two reasons. One was that while this day school is known as excellent, I wondered how it made a national list as Number 1. The other was I wondered where this parent got this information. "From Niche," she said.
Niche is a website that ranks places to live, schools, and colleges. Think the annual US News and Word Report college ranking list. Niche explains their methodology in general and for schools specifically. Notice that weight is given to Niche users' evaluations, which would make a smart school drive parents there to log their opinion...and makes Niche readership rise. (No small coincidence.)
Prospective parents love school rankings. It makes the hard work of selecting a school seem easy. The mom I spoke with certainly thought so.
Schools and current parents love school rankings — when their school ranks high.
But we all know how arbitrary (aka unfair) those rankings can be. This is why The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) has a statement on why they don't rank their schools. This is a great piece for you to use as a starting point, as I am doing here, to have a conversation with your prospective and current parents about rankings.
Instead of focusing on rankings, prospective parents should focus on fit. Which school is the right fit for their child?
Then it's up to you, School Marketers, to do the hard work of telling your audiences what makes your school distinctive and, perhaps, the right fit for that child. Effective marketing and communications is harder to do than pointing to a list, but will benefit the school in countless other ways, including on the day that your school doesn't make or falls off that list.