Many schools offer summer programs for students, often with the hope of converting summer camp attendees into enrolled students. But having these students simply attend your camp isn’t always enough to entice them to apply. Here are tips on how to best cultivate your audience and encourage them to not only attend the summer camp again but also consider applying for the full school year, starting with things to do before they even leave campus for the summer.
Make sure admission and summer people work together.
Connecting with summer camp attendees in hopes of getting them to apply can be tricky if the two offices aren't working together. Relationship building is a huge part of any successful cultivation strategy, so admission officers need to be involved in summer camp, and camp administrators should help with follow up communication. Have admission officers help with registration, eat lunch with campers, and even participate in some of the field trips or supervisory activities. Plan for summer camp coordinators to write thank you notes and reach out to families in the fall who might be interested in applying for admission.
Celebrate a wonderful camp experience - before campers leave.
Unfortunately, not every school gives outgoing campers and their families a send-off to remember, a missed opportunity to foster a strong relationship. At the end of the summer camp program, admission officers and summer camp coordinators should plan two celebratory events to thank students and their families for attending the camp.
A student-only event can focus on the friendships they have made throughout their time at the camp, and the teachers or camp counselors who made the time on campus a wonderful experience. Slideshows, swag bags, and special activities or meals can be a great way to have students leave feeling like they had an incredible experience.
An event for parents can focus on not only the friendships their children made, but also the skills that students developed, and the preparation they received for the coming school year, athletic season or arts endeavors they may have in the fall. Gathering parents together with key administrators to celebrate student achievements is a great way to set the foundation for an on-going relationship.
Give away lots of school swag - before they leave.
Giving campers and their families products with the school’s name, colors and logo prominently displayed helps you accomplish two goals: keeping the school’s name at the top of the family’s mind, and you’re giving yourself free word of mouth advertising. Every time the student wears the summer camp t-shirt or carries the water bottle with your school’s logo on it, they will remember their wonderful experience, and bonus, they advertise the programs to everyone they come in contact with throughout the day. Even though it’s summer time, also give the students a hoodie for fall and winter months when it’s cooler; they just might wear it to school, making sure your school’s name is advertised to every student who sees the shirt. Don’t forget to give the parents swag, either. Sweatshirts, scarves, travel mugs, pens, iPhone cases, iPad covers, water bottles … anything that they might use on a regular basis that will remind them of your school and advertise the school to others around them. Even if you don’t get that particular family, you might spark the interest of someone else.
Get families into an email workflow - after they leave.
An email workflow lets you target families regularly throughout the year, sending them periodic messages that encourage them to interact with the school. You might start with a message that shares some photos or a commemorative video from the summer camp, and remind them of the camp dates for next year, and then plan a series of emails to go out automatically. Your follow up emails can include a range of topics that remind them of the camp, point out similar programs at the school, and finally encourage them to inquire about full admission. If you have an inbound blog, you can link to content that you think they might enjoy. Set a schedule in advance, and stick to it.
Send some snail mail.
In this age of digital communication, don’t overlook a classic: the snail mail. A simple, “good luck at school” postcard at back to school time is a great way to connect with families who attended your camp. Send a holiday card, birthday card, or six-month anniversary of attending summer camp card signed by both people from the admission office and people who were involved in the summer camp.
Share success stories.
Part of encouraging families to apply to summer camp and enroll at school is demonstrating there’s value in both opportunities. Profiling students who completed the summer camp and went on to enroll can show how one program prepared them for the other. These stories can be promoted on the website, shared via social media and included in the email workflows you’re creating to help cultivate families.
Give summer families a “deal”.
We all love to save money, so give your summer families a deal by waiving the application fee or, if they aren’t ready for admission just yet, give them a discount on summer tuition for the returning year to keep them coming back. Offering them something special will make them feel valued and appreciated, and like you care about them. Families trust schools to take good care of their children, and schools that take care of their families often see a lot of loyalty.
About the Author
Inspired by her own private school experiences, Stacy Jagodowski has devoted her career as a faculty member and administrator to introducing others to the private school world. Her career has focused on institutional advancement, with five years of admission experience, and more than a decade in marketing and communications.More Content by Stacy Jagodowski
Stacy has led strategic marketing and communications teams at Cheshire Academy and Milken Community Schools; at Cheshire, her team earned award-winning recognition for their annual fund marketing programs and overall team development. She blogs for several private school organizations and has given several webinars and podcasts about private school marketing best practices. Stacy has also presented at national conferences including the NAIS Annual Conference, TABS Annual Conference, NAIS TABS Global Symposium, and Blackbaud K-12’s User Conference.