Why Campus Visits Mean Big Bucks to Today’s Schools

A single campus visit is worth $50,400 to today’s school

In the increasingly competitive world of private education, it’s becoming tougher than ever for schools to differentiate themselves from the growing number of additional options available to parents.

Whether your school’s near term goal is to aggressively grow its student population or simply continue to attract high quality students, you don’t need to spend millions of dollars overhauling your athletic facilities and fine arts center, join another association or add another after school program.  Your school can become more competitive today.

The Enrollment Management Association published its annual report summarizing their key findings behind the motivations and mindsets of families when applying to private schools.

Using this data, we’ll look at why a single campus visit by one family can be worth $50,400 to your school and why the campus visit should be the primary focus of your school this year.

For the below, we’ll consider the Jones family, an example family with 3 children. With the average private school K-12 tuition climbing past $10,000 per year, the Jones family represents an average lifetime customer revenue of more than $360,000 over the span of the K-12 years.

The private school landscape will continue to become more competitive

There are now almost 800 private schools in our home state of North Carolina alone and it’s not uncommon for parents to have 20+ legitimate primary or secondary school options to send their children.

Many parents find it is becoming tougher to distinguish one school from the next on paper. It is now commonplace for private schools to offer a record of academic excellence, smaller class sizes, a quality teacher base, expanded athletics and fine arts facilities, and extensive afterschool programs.

While these offerings are great and arguably necessary to keep your school on the list of potential candidates, they aren’t as powerful as they were in the past because you’re not the only school that offers these anymore.

A positive campus visit can be your top recruiter

When considering which schools to apply to for the 2017-2018 school year, the study shows most parents visited at least one private school, and 8 in 10 parents visited two or more schools.

After a positive experience with an in-person visit, those that were extremely or very committed to a school jumped from 77% to 86%.

For the Jones family, this increase in commitment level provides average lifetime revenue of $32,400 (9% increase x $360,000).

Further, consider this does not include any additional revenue from potential word of mouth referrals in the future.

A negative campus visit can be a leading deterrent

Almost a third of parents rejected schools as a result of a campus visit that did not go well. Many reasons were cited by the parents that did not apply, including 28% stating they had a bad visit and 20% stating the main reason was the campus facilities.

For the Jones family, a negative visit results in a loss of average lifetime revenue of $118,800 (33% rejection rate x $360,000).

Adding up the above gets to a potential impact of $151,200.   As each surveyed family applied to approximately three schools on average (but only ultimately chooses one), we’ll divide the above by three and arrive at an average lifetime revenue impact of $50,400 for the Jones family campus visit.

That is $50,400 is just one campus visit by one family.  Multiply this by the number of family visits on an annual basis and the impact of campus visits becomes overwhelmingly clear.

The campus visit will continue to be a key deciding factor

In an age where a family can find seemingly unlimited data on every school online, will campus visits become less of a deciding input in the future?

On the contrary, campus visits are here to stay and they will continue to be just as important of a deciding factor into the future.  How can we know this?

In most cases, the campus visit is limited to a tour that may last a couple hours, but in this short timeframe, parents are subconsciously processing observable data and concluding on the most fundamental inputs that will factor into their decision.  Things like…

  • Do I see this as a safe/clean/caring place for my child?
  • Do I see this as a place of excellence that will be an example for my child?
  • Do I see this as a place where my child can fit in and flourish?

Many time parents don’t realize the emotional brain kicking in and taking over in the decision making process.  How a parent “feels” about a school following a campus visit becomes one of the most significant deciding factor in school choice. It’s built into our anatomy and happens in most every purchasing decision we make. The rational brain is great at rationalizing what the emotional brain has already decided.

Improving your campus visits doesn’t require significant investment

No matter how great you think your school is at campus visits, you can always do more. The study suggests even the little things can make a big impact, but this is not one-size-fits-all and this should be thought of as a continual improvement as opposed to a one-time effort.

Try starting by incorporating these key activities into your campus visits:

  • Allow for personal time with an admission director, teachers, students, and the head of school
  • Make families aware of any opportunities to customize their visits
  • Provide the opportunity to attend a class and/or extracurricular program
  • Offer tours lead by a current student with common interests
  • Keep your campus facilities in phenomenal shape and be sure to highlight your facilities strengths – tools like CMMS software and/or FixMob can help!
  • Be adaptive – try incorporating small differences in each campus visit (A-B testing) and track feedback to see what works well for your school

Note these activities don’t require six figure investments and can be started today.

Are you treating each campus visit like it’s worth $50,400?  If not, what’s keeping you from getting started?


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