The design and content of an independent school’s website greatly influence prospective students. When a school’s site is confusing to navigate or comes across as too contrived, student interest can quickly decrease.
As a high school senior and your key prospective demographic, I spent much time browsing college websites this past year. Here are some suggestions that I encourage you to consider for your school website to help attract and engage students.
Website accessibility is essential.
While it might seem ridiculous, a student could quickly feel tempted to abandon researching your school if they find it too difficult to navigate the website. Make sure that all necessary information can be easily found, but also that no page is too overwhelming.
Include subpages with links that open in a new window so that viewers don’t leave your site. Sarah Lawrence College’s website is organized with the most important pages at the top, and other information linked at the bottom – a simple and effective layout.
It’s imperative to use a design that works well on mobile devices. Many students will research from their phones and may grow frustrated if your school’s website is not mobile-friendly. A mobile-friendly site will make their research process accessible and more enjoyable.
Incorporate the latest social media networks and digital tools.
As students become more accustomed to the internet and social media at younger ages, they become more observant. It’s easy for them to identify outdated media from the latest versions, and generally, they prefer what’s new.
While I haven’t come across an antiquated school website, I’ve found that there are occasionally a few pages that seem more dated than the rest of the site. Make sure that each page is up to date and cohesive with your website’s overall design. While it isn’t easy or cheap to frequently redesign your entire website, consider implementing little changes occasionally – nothing too complicated – to refresh your design. Consider changing the appearance of your homepage just by updating photos every so often. My high school, St. Paul’s School for Girls, displays some revolving images on its homepage.
Illustrate what being a student at your school is like.
Pictures and videos genuinely make a difference; the ability to feel absorbed in relatable moments is paramount for many prospective students. A pictorial and audiovisual glimpse into your school’s daily life and traditions can give students a sense of your school’s community and how they would feel if they attended.
Make sure to highlight your school’s strengths. Consider dedicating an entirely separate page, like Kenyon College’s page devoted to writing at Kenyon.
Find ways to translate the student experience from your school through the screen.
Every school displays pictures of happy students, so it’s essential to find new ways to showcase student life highlights at your school. Videos and interviews of students, overviews of specific opportunities, and even public calendars displaying fun and upcoming school events allow prospective students to imagine their own experience.
Embrace and include authentic student profiles.
Profiles of successful students feel authentic and intimate rather than simply displaying numbers and statistics. While statistics are important, they can seem contrived. Providing a deeper look into your students’ lives and thoughts gives prospective students a better idea of what they can expect.
Princeton’s student profile page provides an overview of multiple diverse students, allowing the prospective student to learn more about each or whomever they find most interesting. Mount Saint Mary’s student profile section displays a few students’ answers to important questions.
Creativity is key.
Parents likely want the facts, but prospective students find joy in observing the creative ways that schools market themselves. Find unique ways to display different aspects of your school, such as special opportunities offered to students.
- Consider taking a nod from college websites and adding a “Why Choose Us?” page
- List colleges and career paths that recent alumni are experiencing.
- Link other platforms such as TikTok for students to explore and not just in your footer.
- Include a photo gallery of student art.
Many prospective students will get a first impression of your school through its website. It’s essential to ensure that they like what they see so they’ll want to continue exploring and take the next steps to learn more.
About Caeleigh Stamper
Caeleigh graduated from St. Paul’s School for Girls in May 2022 and will attend Kenyon College, where she plans to major in English and writing. She is co-editor-in-chief of The Page & The Epistle, the school newspaper and runs track and field. In May 2022, she completed her SPSG Senior Project with Sarah Achenbach, Kalix’s Communications Lead, writing web content and other marketing-focused writing projects.