Are you ready to welcome the Class of 2025?

This post was contributed by Jim Pavlacka, Director of Leadership Development at NCEA

Catholic Schools Week is one of, if not, THE most important week of the school year for most Catholic schools across the United States.  It’s typically during Catholic Schools Week when many elementary schools will offer their annual open house in order to lay the foundation for welcoming the next incoming class of kindergarteners, just as other grades – through secondary – focus on filling any seats that are available, for the following school year.

It is one thing to offer an open house and see what happens.  However, as we all know…if you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten!  A Catholic school leader knows that sustaining the viability of their school is of utmost importance.  In order to effectively accomplish this, continuously implementing the principles of enrollment management is essential.  An annual ongoing marketing and branding campaign is critical.  So, you may be asking yourself, with Catholic Schools Week just a few short weeks away, what can we do now?  Great question!  It’s never too late to start or tweak your plans!

Your open house is a significant piece of the admissions and enrollment stages in the enrollment management process.  Understanding how to effectively promote and conduct a successful open house is vital.

As a diocesan and school level enrollment management consultant since 2008, here are some suggestions I can offer that all Catholic schools should consider…even with just a few weeks to go:

  • Do you understand where your prospective students and their families come from?
    • For example – Identify and explore the local neighborhoods, Catholic Churches without schools, local pre-K and preschool programs, large local businesses and organizations such as the Federal Government, military bases, colleges and universities, to begin.
  • Have you used effective strategic marketing and advertising to specifically and aggressively target your prospective students and their families?
    • For example – In addition to hanging banners and placing lawn signs around town as well as advertising in local newspapers and your school and parish bulletins and websites:
      • Do you visit the local churches, businesses and organizations and advertise in their publications, newsletters, bulletins and websites?
      • Do you leave cards, brochures, invitations everywhere you go?
      • Do you invite yourself to visit and speak with parents at the local pre-K and preschool programs?
      • Do you speak at each of the Masses at your school’s parish one weekend in January? When you do, Be Direct – Be Specific – Be Creative!  Your job is to orchestrate a communication flow that tells the story of your Catholic school in such a way that prospective students and their families want to hear it told.
    • Do you utilize effective, cohesive, internal branding during your open house?
      • The key to this is everyone a prospective family meets during an open house event or while on a tour of your school shares the same message. Reflect on the students, faculty, staff, home and school association members, school board members:
        • How do they represent your school?
        • Do they walk-the-talk?
        • Do they know-share-live the vision and mission of your school? Aka…Evangelize!  This is the message you want everyone to convey.
      • Have you offered more than one open house event during Catholic Schools Week?
        • Accommodating the needs and lives of your potential students and their families is central. Offer an open house on a weekend day and another open house on a week night after working hours so that the parents and potential students can attend and experience your school together.  Also, offer an open house during the school day as well so that potential families will have the opportunity to see the school in full operational mode.

Yes, with just a few weeks to go until Catholic Schools Week, you too can make your open house events more effective and prosperous with just a few specific targeted marketing tweaks and improvements!  If you have any questions or if I can be of any additional support, I can be reached at or 571-257-0010 ext. 2878.