Building an effective feeder system is a fundamental strategy for all schools. But as with any relationship, these must be cultivated and managed to be effective. Many schools have anecdotally identified strong feeder schools, but don’t take the next step in effectively partnering to ensure robust student pipelines.
Colleges and high schools have traditionally understood the importance of feeder relationships. College recruiters will often visit the high schools to help cement the bond between the feeder school and the university. High schools also have a good history of developing programs that allow a familiarity with their school for Jr. high school students.
So how do you develop feeder relationships? Going about this is rather easy. The first step is to understand who would be a potential feeder school. There are two sources that you can use to identify feeder schools. The first one is your existing student base. As part of your standard enrollment process, you should always be asking the new student what school they previously attended. In taking this small step, you can identify what are your existing feeder schools. Overtime, you will also be able to make a qualitative judgement on the quality of the schools that traditionally feed into your school. If you know that students from feeder school X are particularly strong academically, you can then focus on that school to try to recruit higher achieving students.
Knowing who are your existing feeder schools is just the first step. Your next step is to identify all of the potential feeder schools that you could tap into. A great resource for this is the website www.greatschools.org. Using this website, it is very easy for you to enter in the address of your school, set a geographic circle, and identify all of the potential schools within a certain area. Select on the grade that represents the one that you want to pull from and you will be surprised at how many schools pop up. Once you have this wider list – review it with your staff to identify which programs you think should be targeted for cultivation.
Now that you have your short list of potential feeder schools it is a matter of creating relationships with that school. Make contact with either the principal or guidance counselor, or in the case of a preschool, the center director. Offer to provide them a school tour or to meet with them to help them understand the specific benefits of your school. You should always be able to articulate who is your target student when you are discussing your school with a potential feeder school.
This is very critical for elementary schools. Being able to recruit a strong kindergarten class is often a key area of strength for an elementary school. But yet, many schools don’t actively reach out to the preschools operating in their area.
Now that you have identified your feeder schools and made initial contact, it is important to continue to cultivate that relationship. There are multiple different ways for you to partner with schools. Offering a shadow day for their students at your school, offering to link to their website, matching up early curriculum requirements are all very easy ways that you can use to cement more positive relationships. Share feedback with them regarding how their grads are doing. Every school would love to hear that the students from their school are highly regarded when they move to the next stage of their academic career.
Establishing feeder relationships is an easy and free marketing program that will pay dividends as you recruit students.
Nick LeRoy is the president of Bright Minds Marketing and former Executive Director of the Indiana Charter School Board. Bright Minds Marketing provides marketing and recruitment consulting to private and charter schools. For information about how Bright Minds Marketing can help your school improve your marketing, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 317-361-5255. You can also see examples of customer work at www.brightmindsmarketing.com