Rolling out the red carpet

When’s the last time you thought about your school’s front door?

During a recent visit to beloved client Moorestown Friends School, we were wowed by the warm welcome we received upon arrival. A school’s emotional curb appeal—the atmosphere at the entry point, front door, or the reception desk—is something we always take note of on a campus visit, and MFS is on point.

Mario Morgado Photography NYC

We encourage all our clients to consider how their schools look and feel to a newcomer, experienced as someone new to the community would experience it. While you pull up to your school and walk the familiar halls every day, your impressions are informed and shaped by all the knowledge you hold as an insider. But what do prospective families see, and more importantly feel when they come to campus? With tour and open house season in full swing, there’s no better time to think about the first impressions your school is making on first-time visitors.

At MFS, nestled in charming downtown Moorestown, New Jersey, prospective families pull into the carpool line and immediately find visitor parking spots. We love the idea of designated admissions tour parking because families know they are in the right place, right from the start. Visitors then walk to a large, clearly visible entrance where they are welcomed by a greeter at the front desk, who signs each guest in, issues a badge, and—most importantly—makes them feel invited into the community and at home even in an unfamiliar space. MFS offers a master class in warm welcomes, and we’ve got a few more pointers of our own:

  • Every visitor should be welcomed to the school by someone gracious and knowledgeable to help with logistics and information and to make an important immediate connection on a human level. We all greet guests at the door at our homes—schools should, too.
  • Consider adding a dry erase or chalkboard sign featuring visiting families’ names, to reassure them that they are expected and welcomed. It’s a little thing, but a nice touch.
  • Make a quick audit of what folks see when they walk into your entry point. They will take it all in. Is it full of art? History? Comfy places to sit? This space says a lot about the values of the place, like it or not. Take a moment today and walk through your “front door” as if it were for the first time. What do you take away? What seems important to the school based on this space? A carefully curated entry point connotes a carefully curated teaching and learning environment; a shabby, neglected space sends a message, too.

We also recommend that your entry point gives prospective families a sense of how deeply children are valued in that space. Moorestown Friends welcomed new head of school Julia de la Torre this year, and she set to work immediately to revamp her office to match her personal aesthetic and extend the school’s commitment to welcoming spaces. Her office happens to be right by the main entrance, and she enlisted the help of the student body to decorate the space around her door.

There, for all visitors to see, hangs a giant sheet of paper on which students have written their names and marked their height at the beginning of the school year, just as a parent might on a wall or doorframe at home to mark a child’s growth over the years. This collection of multicolored names and height marks, from the tiniest pre-K learners to the upper school basketball team’s center at the top serves as an important focal point in the MFS entrance. It’s also a gathering space where kids convene to measure how much they’ve grown physically in just the first few months of school and proudly show friends their progress. It’s the kind of personalized representation of growth—and proof of how every child at MFS is encouraged to make their mark—that speaks powerfully to prospective parents.

Do you have a front door space you’re proud of? Drop us a line to tell us about it. Or do you want to talk through your front door, tour strategy, or open house approach? Give us a call.