By the time admissions professionals finally get to March, and new students have been accepted and enrolled, it’s time to celebrate! But, working within a limited budget sometimes makes that welcoming revelry feel more stressful than celebratory. Getting caught up in trying to compete with the school down the street that delivers new family gifts by helicopter - reminiscent of Oscar swag bags, complete with monogrammed gold headphones and a new car, makes those of us who do not have the same resources struggle to make our new families feel just as special. Fear not, dear colleague. There are other ways to share your excitement with incoming kiddos that are just as meaningful.
How, you ask? Well, for those of us with limited resources, I have a few suggestions.
- ENGAGE YOUR COMMUNITY Connecting new families to the community is critical to helping them feel excited about the fall. At The Gooden School, we ask current families who have students in the incoming child’s grade to be a “host family,” and represent that special connection to their new school. We ask that they reach out as soon as possible to congratulate them, answer questions (immediately and throughout the year) about uniform, carpool, and address the myriad of parent-related questions they may have, as well as set up a few get-togethers over the summer. This not only helps the new family feel appreciated by the school community, it also helps the current family get to know new friends in the class.
- IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS Never underestimate the impact of a letter. Everyone loves getting mail that is not coupons or bills, right? Well, new families are no different. You know those student ambassadors who made such an impact throughout the admissions process? Why not have them write welcome letters, design bookmarks, or make a welcome video for the new kids? Our ambassadors are talented, creative, and ALWAYS asking for new ways to participate. So inviting them to be part of the stewarding process is just as important, if not more in some cases, than an expensive gift. One of The Gooden School’s recent alumni wrote a children’s book - and the pleasure of sharing that sweet work of art with our incoming families was immeasurable.
- THINK AHEAD What do families need to join your community? Do they needa logo stress ball or sunglasses? Maybe. But, would supplies with your logo that parents would actually need to purchase anyway be more useful? Do you require a pencil case or specific kind of tote? If you have uniforms, like we do, perhaps consider sending a piece of that uniform. It would help the new student really feel excited about a new part of their wardrobe, but also their parents would be thrilled to not have to purchase that piece for the year!
- CONNECT TO YOUR MISSION AND HISTORY Fancy swag is exciting but is it meaningful? What makes your school unique and special may also, in fact, make your new student feel unique and special. Are you a hands-on-learning school? Perhaps sending those future engineers a fun STEAM challenge? Or how about student-made slime kits (with an apology to parents about the mess). Or a detective who-dun-ittype online game made about your school? The Gooden School is located in beautiful Sierra Madre just outside of Pasadena, and it is known for its beautiful wisteria plants. It was also built on an orchard in the late 1800s so giving new families wisteria seed packets is meaningful in terms of our hands-on-learning approach, but also ties into our history and philosophy of Respect for Self, Respect for Others, and Respect for the World. Hopefully that seed will grow as our students do during their time at Gooden.
- SHARE ON SOCIAL So now that your new families have received all of these heartfelt welcomes - why not share in a more public forum? Ask the new families to share a picture or video of their child donning that new uniform piece, planting their wisteria seeds, or putting together their slime on social media. How about sharing pictures of the host kids and the new kids getting ice cream or going to the beach together? Make sure to ask them to tag your school. The more recognition the better! And then everyoneis congratulating them on their wonderful choice to join your fabulous school and the thoughtfulness of your gifts.
So dear readers, should you get to January and start to feel the pressure of putting together exciting new family gifts - fret not - because you now have a plan. Remember, making families feel special doesn’t have to break the bank. It takes time, but it ends up being so much more meaningful in the end.
Director of Admission and Enrollment Management
The Gooden School