Prospective Students Page – Why Bury It?

As we work with more and more schools (we've added over 50 new schools so far this year) we notice how often the Prospective Students section is hard to find on a lot of the websites we see. We have been trying to get our heads around this and it would appear it comes down to one simple fact.

Schools are confused about who their website audience is.

It's understandable; you have a million-and-one things to do and keeping a website up to date isn't the sexiest of jobs. What is true though, is that there are a few key audiences who are looking at your website and missing any one of them is missing a real trick.

In this brief article we're just going to look at Prospective Students and how to best meet their needs on your website.

When considering any audience you need to spend a little time thinking about what it is they want to know. Then you need to provide that information in a way that is friendly to that audience and make sure it is accessible.

What information should I include?

We're talking about an audience who are looking for a very clear idea of who you are, very quickly. Think of how you shop online; you don't spend more than a few seconds deciding, often subconsciously, that you do or don't want to buy something from a particular website. That decision is based primarily on the feeling you get from that website. As consumer's we're generally pretty good at figuring out in just a few seconds if I can trust a company based on how they present themselves online and what assurances are there for me as a purchaser.

If you're website doesn't look nice and it doesn't contain the information your audience is looking for, then they will very often look elsewhere. This is as true of students for a 6th Form as it is for parents of students looking for a primary school or a high school.

Of course there are caveats to this statement around the reputation of a school locally. Lots of schools are well known and well regarded locally and so admission numbers isn't an issue. It's fair to say that thinking broader and more long term than that will hold you in good stead.

Firstly, because even though you have a good reputation, your website is the first port of call for most parents and students

You should at the very least make sure you include the following info:

  • Great photos of life at your school; lots on the front page and throughout your content to bring pages to life, particularly text heavy pages
  • A well-written, personal message from the Head about your school and why it is the place for any student to come to
  • Information, policies and personal comments in key areas such as curriculum, SEN, how you care for children with any additional needs.
  • Your contact details, easy to find.

How should I structure the information?

As an example, don't just rely on uploaded documents on your SEN policy to let parents of children with additional needs know that you are the school for them. Create content that brings this side of your school to life. The SEN policy will be looked at by OFSTED (and not lots of other people!) , and a parent of a prospective student with a learning disability doesn't want data, they want to know how you are going to look after their child and give them the best possible chance in life. That is true of every prospective parent when they visit your site and so give them the information they want to see, in a way they want to see it.

Create a clear structure, clearly titled and easy to find. No content should be more than 3 clicks away from any location on your site, ideally no more than 2.

Where should it live on my website?

You should have at the least a 'main menu' option for Prospective Parents, or similar. All audiences want to know they are important enough for the content they want to access isn't buried somewhere in your site. Depending on your website design and indeed your provider, you should be aiming to make it possible to find the content for each audience type really easily. Adding a link to the main menu will go a long way to making sure people can find that content easily because that is the first place they will look.

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