For any language school, one of the biggest problems is getting and keeping students. There are several main areas to consider: understanding your target markets, matching your program with your markets, and building a working relationship with agents in other countries.
Understanding your Prospective Students
Students from different countries have vacations at different times. Japanese students, for example, generally have their long vacation from January to February. Europeans can take a 3 month paid vacation once a year. American students have a long vacation during the summer months.
Recruiting locally requires knowing the usual school hours and times. In Korea, elementary school students finish at noon, high school students finish at 5 pm, and college students or adults want classes before or after normal working hours.
Understand visa regulations. Many countries have 30 day or longer vacation visas to your country that do not require a student visa, so designing classes and programs for different lengths of time allows for more flexibility.
Working with Agents
There are two main groups of agents: Private individuals who meet with and advise prospective students, and travel agents
Private individuals will often take a nominal, one-time fee to send you hot leads (students who are not just curious but committed to traveling and/or studying another language.) If their leads result in admissions, a referral bonus is a good way to build a lasting relationship. Newspaper, trade magazine, Internet, and other forms of classified ads cast a wide net.
Large travel agencies have access to hundreds or thousands of prospective students. Usually, like any other industry, they are licensed or certified in some way and have regular conventions just like any other trade group. It is a good idea to set up a booth at one of these conventions to get to meet travel agents. Large companies will accept a 10% commission on every dollar spent by the student, but extremely large agencies will require 12-15%.
A good personal relationship with your agents is vital. It is a requirement to understand and follow the cultural norms of different countries.
Developing an Attractive Program
Depending on the age of the students you are targeting, it is vital to focus on the person actually making the buying decision: the student or their parents.
Parents put the safety and welfare of their children foremost. Dormitories, bilingual employees, 24 security and a cafeteria all help parents feel that their children will be secure. Advertising to parents is more effective with flyers, traditional advertisements, and word-of-mouth.
Adult students understand that they are paying a large amount of money for a relatively short amount of time. They tend to prefer homestay (living with a family that uses the target language in natural environments,) field trips, and being with people of a similar age. Having a homestay program with trusted locals is one of the best ways to make your program stand out from other types of programs. Internet, colleges, and workplace presentations are good ways to reach this group.
In summary, recruiting can be daunting, but by effectively using your recruiting budget, you can create programs, relationships and advertising that pays off for years to come.