The Advice Booth: Admissions Programs During Covid
As the director of admissions at my school, I typically run recruitment events so that prospective families in the community can get to know our school. I’m looking for creative ideas to engage prospective families that go beyond a typical Zoom session, as we know that families have serious Zoom fatigue. What would you recommend?
Over the past few months, we’ve gathered a lot of great ideas for engaging prospective families in the era of Covid-19 from the cohort of schools in DSEE, the Day School Engagement and Enrollment initiative, and weekly check-in calls with admission directors.
Just as many schools are taking a hybrid approach, a mix of in-person and remote learning, consider a hybrid approach program. At Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School in St. Louis, Director of Admissions and Marketing Patty Bloom ran an online STEAM Studio program in partnership with PJ Library. Patty prepared bags of supplies (including Mirowitz swag) and invited families to stop by the school to pick up their bags in advance of the virtual program. Patty shared that the pick-up allowed her to have one-on-one conversations with prospective parents, and even give some impromptu tours around the outside of school.
Another idea comes from SAR High School in Riverdale, New York. Director of Admissions Shifra Landowne is partnering with a current student to create an Instagram account that captures life at SAR, pre-COVID. Students will be asked to share video clips and photos from previous years that represent their high school experience. Parents and eighth graders will be invited to follow the account as a way to get a taste of the SAR experience.
Rabbi Yael Buechler at the Leffell School in Westchester, New York, ran a series of programs over the summer to engage families looking for
activities for their children who were stuck at home. One model that they experimented with was a buddy program, pairing up current middle school students with prospective pre-schoolers. The middle school students would read stories to their younger buddies once a week, giving parents a break and also providing young families with a glimpse into the community of Leffell students and their families.
We’ve heard lots of other great ideas, from renting an ice cream truck and handing out ice cream around the neighborhood to outdoor socially distanced programming in a school garden or apple orchard. Keep in mind that these types of initiatives can also be a part of a retention strategy, as a way to engage current families, and in particular any new families that enrolled in your school due to the pandemic. What’s most important in designing these programs is considering what the needs of families and students are and how you might address their needs, and meeting them where they are at, whether that’s on Instagram or at a local park.