How to tap into the college student pool
By Maureen Janson
Every fall in and around college and university towns, thousands of new students arrive, many of them planning to dance. Those who are not studying dance on campus and dance majors who want to supplement their college classes might not know where to go for classes. If your studio is near a college campus, making your presence known among the college set can bring new students to your door.
Adapt some of your marketing efforts to target college students. As you assemble print and electronic materials, emphasize what makes your school unique. For example, if hip-hop is not offered on campus, and your school offers it, make sure that fact is prominent. Highlight attractions such as freedom from worry about grades, easy public transportation (or a location within walking distance), or classes that are more affordable than a college course. Offer a free class or discounts and package deals that appeal to budget-minded college students.
Start your classes a week or two later than the college semester and build a student-friendly weekly schedule by planning your offerings around campus courses.
Also, look for connections. Is anyone on your staff an alumnus of or affiliated with the university or college? If so, mention this connection in your advertising and marketing, and ask those people to help you get the word out. Word of mouth is always tremendously valuable.
Creative scheduling can give you extra marketing time and make your offerings more appealing. Start your classes a week or two later than the college semester and build a student-friendly weekly schedule by planning your offerings around campus courses. Often, evening and weekend dance classes won’t conflict with on-campus dance classes.
Prospective dance students may turn to the dance department, if there is one, for guidance and information, so make connections there by sending an introductory email to the department administrators, faculty, and teaching staff. Typically, you can obtain contact information for any dance programs, clubs, or departments and staff on a college or university website.
If the dance department has a marketing contact person, connect with him or her, or speak with an office administrator for a brainstorming session about strategies they use for marketing dance on campus. Making a personal connection by phone might encourage the department to direct any inquiries your way, particularly regarding classes you offer that the college or university doesn’t. Ask the administrator for ideas, or to direct you to campus resources you might not have found on your own. Be sure to consult the college’s course schedule so you can arrange yours accordingly.
Theater majors often look for dance opportunities, so introduce yourself to the theater department. Other valuable contacts include recreational sports, health, and athletic departments, and campus social or cultural dance clubs.
Keep your website up to date and give your web and email addresses to the departments you visit. If they send an electronic newsletter to students, you can ask to be included as an off-campus option for dance. Also inquire about listing your performances, classes, and contact information on electronic calendars of events for campus and off-campus activities.
Join university social media sites. If dance, theater, and athletic departments and clubs have Facebook pages, “like” them. This may allow you to reach their audiences by posting information on their pages. Posting regularly on your own social-media sites helps students get up-to-date information about your studio.
Students are inundated with electronic information, so paper materials will reinforce your presence. Arm yourself (or some student volunteers) with posters, brochures, and business cards when visiting the dance, theater, or PE departments. Ask permission to leave or post materials where students are likely to see them, such as dorms, student centers, campus welcome centers, libraries, and social centers, as well as off-campus sites like nearby cafes and dancewear stores.
Look into placing ads in the student newspaper or dance and theater production programs. If the opportunity arises, have your students perform as part of a welcome week or new student orientation event, and have brochures and contact information available to distribute.
Fall is an important time to announce your presence to the campus, but keep the marketing going all year long. Many students will be around town for several years, so if they don’t learn about you right away, it doesn’t mean they won’t find your studio in the future.