In the Aftermath of COVID-19, A Choice Student Demographic is Winnable for Private Schools

Independent schools have struggled to find an effective strategy to reach a choice family demographic.

Families who could afford private school tuition, but instead choose a good public school option.

These families usually live in an affluent zip code with public schools that are highly thought of in the community. But public schools, in their handling of the pandemic, could be disappointing their constituent parents and giving them cause to reconsider independent schools.

Most public schools are failing with distance learning.

Public schools must provide equal educational opportunities to all students, and some public school students may not have computers or internet access. For example, in Cincinnati Public Schools about 10% of students do not have home internet access.

That creates a situation where the school cannot reward those students with access by crediting them for their work because that would effectively penalize students without access. In the end, everyone loses.

For students aware that their work will not count, their motivation to participate in distance learning is stripped away. This leaves parents with kids who are falling behind and have major idle-hands challenges.

While most public schools that are offering online distance learning are doing so through online reading and worksheets, private schools are working harder to engage students in a more personal way. Private schools have risen to the occasion with inspiring activities that highlight the strengths of their creative teachers.

Ludington Area Catholic School teacher, Mary Burden talks with third-grade student, Natalie Lamb.

Reach disenfranchised public school parents now.

Now is the time, despite normal admissions yearly cycles, to reach these parents who can afford private school but have previously not been swayed to apply.
Digital advertising:
Due to social distancing, parents are online in record numbers. Now is the time for independent schools to target ad buys at these disenfranchised parents.
Every private school admissions director knows where this demographic is in their area—residing in the school district near them with the well-reputed public school. In addition to general geotargeting of these areas, consider whether other targeting tactics could be helpful.
Create a virtual boundary in the target area. This enables the identification of mobile devices that enter or leave the area. Advertising can then be served to those particular mobile devices.
Mail domain targeting:
Target ads to parents who received an email from a specific mail address domain (example: individuals who have received an email from in the past 30 days).

Send the right message to the disenfranchised public school parent.

1. Extended enrollment: ”Due to COVID-19, we have extended our deadline for applications for Fall 2020 enrollment. Apply Now!”
2. Look at us go! Highlight how well your school is handling distance learning and the creativity your teachers are putting into truly engaging student projects and interactions.
3. Graduation: Whether your school delays graduation or handles graduation in an innovative way, it may be a cut above the public school response. Put special consideration into making your graduation unique and celebratory. Share your plans and graduation moments with joy!
4. Boldly plan for fall. Parents are wondering what fall will bring for their students. Identify clear and definitive plans for opening strong for the 2020–21 school year. Don’t hedge your bets or waffle on the matter as some public school districts will. Make your school the safe and secure choice for the next school year.

Now is the time to shine by proudly showing how your independent school is winning during this challenging time.