Do You Really Know How People Perceive Your School?

Forging School Strategies Blog | June 4, 2014

You probably have a good idea how current and prospective parents view your school. But are you sure? What if your assumptions were incorrect? If you haven’t objectively studied your markets, you might be in for a rude awakening.

Recent examples from our work illustrate how long-held and cherished self-perceptions don’t always reflect market reality. For example:

  • A K-12 school with a strong academic reputation and a college placement record that would be the envy of any independent school was surprised when research with current parents revealed that a third of parents said the upper school fell short of their expectations.
  • Another top school prided itself on its tight-knit and warm community, but found through research that far too many families visiting the school found it unwelcoming.
  • At a day and boarding school, administrators were besieged with complaints from board members and other vocal parents that it was offering too few AP classes; research found that more than 90 percent of current parents were in fact very satisfied with the number and quality of the school’s AP offerings.

These examples underscore the importance of not assuming that the people inside a school know how the market perceives it, and of having reliable market data to support your assumptions. Don’t get too comfortable living in a self-reinforcing bubble ― the bubble can easily burst if you’re not questioning and testing your assumptions. In these challenging times for independent schools, can you really afford to guess how the market perceives your school and how that affects your enrollment, tuition revenue and fundraising results?