by Kristen Mariotti, Director of Boarding School Operations, Linden Educational Services
Several years ago, when I embarked upon my first international recruitment trip representing my boarding school, I was confident that I would meet hundreds of “mission appropriate” students who could not wait to apply to, and ultimately attend, my school. I would be a hero to my head of school, international diversity would blossom across campus, and my travel budget would be doubled for the following year.
This did not happen, at least not overnight. What I quickly learned, and what I am certain many of you know, is that there are various factors involved when creating a solid recruitment strategy in other countries and incredible yield does not come without a good deal of work. This is especially true in emerging markets or in countries where you may be recruiting for the first time. So, after 10 years of recruiting internationally and lots of trial and error, I have learned some crucial follow-up strategies that helped me achieve high yields across the world.
- Follow Up Immediately—I cannot stress enough how important this is. Families and students want to hear from you. They want to feel special. They want to know that you remember them and are interested. If you are traveling for long periods and to many countries, it is a good idea to have a colleague in your office who is able to assist in this crucial follow-up. I would often bring postcards with my school’s logo on my trips, and after each event would write notes to potential students to mail from my hotel. At the very least, each student would receive an email from me within 24 hours. Not everyone will be this proactive—and it will definitely set you, and your school, apart.
- Be Personal—Whether this is in your initial follow-up or later, be sure to restate the points that got the student/ family excited about your school. I always kept notes on the back of my inquiry forms so I could truly personalize my outreach. This is also a great time to have coaches, fine and performing art teachers, international coordinators, etc., reach out personally to students with specific interests.
- “I Saw This and Thought of You”—Continue to personalize your outreach by sharing links to special events or happenings on campus that resonate with your prospect’s interests. For example, if you have an artist on your list, be sure to share photos or links to any art openings or art-focused events on campus. There are easy ways to tag prospect interests in most databases, so use this feature to your full advantage.
- Share More Information—Continue to engage your prospects with great school videos or links to unique programs. Make sure they are in your database as soon as possible to ensure receipt of important newsletters from your school.
- Know What Sets Your School Apart and Say It—All of our schools have great facilities, caring teachers, and a wide variety of academic offerings. This is the time to promote the unique attributes of your school that differentiate you in the market. Do you have IB? Are you in a great location? Do you have a robotics class or club? Are you a single-gender school? In promoting your differentiators you will find your yield not only grow, but grow with the right students for your school.
- Get Social—Invite prospects to follow your school on all of your social media outlets. After a recruitment fair, your school’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media pages should always have a spike in followers.
- Be Patient but Don’t Give Up—Developing name recognition in an international market takes time. A first-time visit to a country may get you a student or two, but sometimes it won’t. You need to explain this to your director, head, and/ or board—it takes time to develop a market, and in three to five years, with the right exposure, your school’s international landscape could change dramatically. In three years at Cheshire Academy, our team was able to increase the international representation from 16 countries of origin to 32. This did not happen overnight, but it happened.