As summer begins to wrap up, those of us in career education will often see a bump in our student enrollments this time of year as many people choose to enroll in school as fall begins. As these new students enter your school, what do you do to welcome them? Does your school make start days special? Or, have start days simply become a routine part of business?
I know from my days working in a school, start day was simply another Tuesday and often I failed to realize what was going on for those new students walking in the door. I forgot that new students were walking in to our school with feelings of excitement and anticipation because they were finally pursuing their dream. However, there were also feelings of fear, anxiety and uncertainty in not really knowing what to expect. As students start at our schools, we need to make certain that we are helping them relieve those feelings of fear, anxiety and uncertainty and tap into the excitement that they are feeling. We need to turn every start day into a Welcome Party! We need to make it a day that assures the students that they have made the right choice in choosing a career in the beauty and wellness industry and an even better choice in choosing your school.
Here are a few ways you can turn your start days into a Welcome Party!
- Welcome Banner. Post a welcome banner in your reception area or classroom. It will not only welcome new students but it will inform the current students and staff that there are new students arriving so they can offer their own welcome. There are many options for inexpensive banners. I personally have used Party City as a means to create fun, quick and cost effective banners. If the banner route isn’t possible, at least have a welcome sign to students on a flip chart or marker board as they enter the classroom. Now, to make it meaningful to all, make sure you only have it up on start day. If you leave it up all the time, it will lose its power for your current students.
- Have some sort of an icebreaker ready that allows all new students the opportunity to get to know each other, as well as the possibility of getting to know other students in the school. Make it fun and don’t force students to get too personal with who they are. Do you struggle with new ideas for icebreakers? There is a fun icebreaker app that we shared with you in a blog post not too long ago. Check it out here.
- School Scavenger Hunt. Create a scavenger hunt that will help introduce new students to your school facilities. Put new students in groups of 3 to 4 and assign them a mentor (current student). Have the groups seek out items listed on their scavenger hunt. This is a fun way to get students familiar with your campus.
- Future Graduates. From the moment the student begins in school, start speaking to them as if it is not a question of if they will graduate from your school, but when they will graduate. Help them begin to see on day one that their career in the industry doesn’t start after graduation and passing state board, or even when they enter the salon, but rather it is starting today. Help them see themselves as a part of the industry from day one. Why not take a picture of all the new students in a cap and gown? Then, post the photos in your school with the caption “Graduates of 2018”. This allows the students to begin to see themselves as completing the program.
- Welcome Bag/Survival Kit. Issue each student a welcome bag or survival kit with items that will help them navigate their upcoming year. Incorporate items like a welcome letter, campus map, area restaurants/coffee shops, helpful phone numbers, classroom rules, study tips, organization ideas, as well as fun stuff like pens, highlighters, and post-it notes. Perhaps even a gift card for services or retail products in the student salon. I recognize most of these items are found in the school catalog or orientation process, but by setting some of them apart as a Welcome Bag makes it a bit more fun.
- Welcome Card. I just mentioned a welcome letter should be included in the welcome bag, but as their educator in the school, provide each new student a hand-written note/card personally welcoming them not only to the school but into your classroom. Let them know how excited you are to have them and be sure to share a bit about yourself as well.
These are just a few ideas. There are so many ways you can make start day special for new students. Whether it be greeting them at the door, offering a smile of encouragement, shaking their hand and show them to their classroom, it doesn’t really matter what you choose to do, just do something! You have the opportunity to set the stage for their entire program, simply by the way you greet them and manage the class on day one!
What do you do to make your start days memorable?