by Pamela McKenna, Director of Admission, Hopkins School (CT)
A few years ago, I was asked to focus on three areas of recruiting for Hopkins School, a traditional liberal arts independent coed day school with 711 students in grades 7-12. Our needs-based financial aid program of approximately $3.2 million dollars serves 20% of our students.
My first charge was to strengthen our presence in New Haven, Connecticut. As an educational institution founded in New Haven, we have an ongoing commitment to reach all qualified students in our local area. The second goal was to encourage academically strong students of color to consider Hopkins, and third, to increase the number of applicants to 7th grade, one of two major entry points to our school.
With these clear objectives, and no change to staffing or budget, we evaluated available resources and concluded that we had an energetic admission team with longstanding personal ties to New Haven, and the school has amazing facilities that were, at times, not being used to capacity. For funding, we reviewed our current marketing plan and reallocated several thousand dollars away from less effective print resources. Marshalling our resources led to the identification of three new initiatives for each goal that seemed both achievable and results-oriented.
Two initiatives have stood out as our best efforts at return on applicants and enrollments. Our first initiative addressed our visibility in New Haven. Through community contacts we learned that the Yale Peabody Museum hosted an an- nual Paleo-Knowledge Bowl for teams of middle school students passionate about dinosaurs. Determining that these students were likely a good match for Hopkins, we offered to sponsor the Bowl and began a mutually beneficial partnership. Hopkins was listed as a sponsor in their museum newsletter, on a banner hanging over one of the busiest streets in downtown New Haven, and on the participant t-shirts. Most importantly, they agreed to share registrant contact information.
On the day of the event, our head of school delivered a welcome speech, we had admission materials on hand, and our head awarded the prizes. After the first year, noting that some teams were either homeschooled or from local schools with limited resources, we added a Paleo-Knowledge Research Day at Hopkins the Saturday before the event, where students could take advantage of resources at our school to study and prepare for the event.
The second initiative helped bring younger students of color to campus. Our admission team created the Bouchet Academy, named for Edward Bouchet, who was the 1870 valedictorian of Hopkins, a Yale graduate, and the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. (Yale/Physics) in the United States. We first sent a letter to public and private schools principals in New Haven asking them to nominate two or three of their top 5th and 6th graders who both excelled academically and were good school citizens. The nominees were then invited to participate in a free one-hour, engaging, hands-on, academically-focused and themed program. At the same time, parents attended an information session on admission and financial aid. At the conclusion, each student was given a certificate of participation, and we invited current students to join faculty, students, and staff for dinner and informal discussions about life at Hopkins.
These programs have been in place for several years and we’re starting to reap the benefits—for 2015-2016, we had our largest 7th grade applicant pool and increased our enrollment of African-American students. While we realize there are a number of factors that contribute to growth, we intend to continue these events! The lesson learned? Creative community marketing and outreach is a great way to find future applicants.