Yep, they are making decisions about where to attend middle school. Just ask any admissions team member who enrolls middle school parents. Sure, Mom is probably initiating the visit, but the middle schooler is definitely part of the gut check process before enrollment.
The scary fact is that you have to now pass the “That’s Gucci” test (middle school slang for “cool”) in all of your marketing. You not only have to pass scrutiny by Mom who is concerned about social adjustment, and Dad, who is also concerned about academic preparation, math, science, and sports, but now the middle schooler’s scrutiny too.
The big shift for private schools is understanding just how much impact the middle schooler has on the enrollment decision.
How much of the decision rests on the student actually looms large beginning around 5th grade and increases every year toward graduation.
In reporting on the way that students talk about their middle school experience, especially those that have had both a private and public school experience, they express appreciation for the closer community and greater opportunities they had in the private school setting.
The ability to know all of their classmates, build stronger connections with teachers, and customize their learning to include things that they care about, creates a strong draw toward private middle schools.
Whether the student (and their parents) will recognize these advantages is a marketing challenge for the school.
Cultivation of the faith experience may or may not be a current priority for the student, but will be one thing they look back on in later years as a result of their Christian school experience.
So what can you do? Recruit a middle schooler (or two or three), bring along some good snacks, and let them share their real opinion about the student life section and canned school video that you share on your website. Don’t be surprised to hear that some of your marketing isn’t “straight fire” (that means “hot” or “trendy”). If you are willing to engage them, your marketing will be better because of their authentic feedback. Listen for the real things they care about, concerns they have and look for ways to let them see how your school meets those needs.
Note: Story Collaborative likes to do small focus groups with middle schoolers to hear their opinions. We like to see the world through their eyes and find ways to create a parallel digital browsing path online to meet all of these young enrollment decisions makers where they live.