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Wardlaw+Hartridge Never Stops

Wardlaw+Hartridge Never Stops
Bob Bowman

When I was in junior high school, I learned the following bizarre (at least to me) fact: they never stop painting the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was a throwaway comment by my geography teacher with no further explanation.  I naively pictured a few folks working their way from one end of the bridge to the other, painting every day.  And when they finished, they just started over.  That is not how they do it, but it is an ongoing process that takes place year-round.  Why am I sharing this bit of trivia?  Because there is a striking similarity to attracting students and families to join the Wardlaw+Hartridge community: it never stops.

As students and teachers return with unbridled excitement and newfound aspirations, we are already planning for next year.  Led by our Admission Team, we invite prospective families to visit the school and learn more about Wardlaw+Hartridge. Such sessions took place right before the current school year even began and once more this past weekend.  At the same time, as we are helping all our students get settled into their day-to-day academic and extracurricular programs, we are also sharing the value of the W+H experience with potential families.  We guide them to understand how they will benefit from our programs and hope to convince them to choose to bring their children’s talents and enthusiasm to W+H.  This process is the lifeblood of the school and allows us to maintain and grow all that we value.

From folks that are new to our school to those that have been here for many years, I thought it might be informative to share the critical things I have learned about how we grow and attract students and families. 

Our students are amazing.  Please know this is not a rehearsed, glib line that I share without thinking.  They ... are ... truly ... amazing.  We invite students to join us outside of the standard school day (Saturdays or evenings) to share their experiences with our prospective families at our Admission events.  They greet and talk to families informally before the event begins, they serve on panels for parents or students (which are separate in the Upper School), and they lead small group tours.  Their poise, eloquence, enthusiasm, candor and sincerity are incandescent.  

I have the privilege of running the parent panel discussion and of accompanying one of the tours.  Each and every time I am astounded by how compelling our students are when they talk about Wardlaw+Hartridge.  I have never left one of these events without many families sharing how truly impressed they are with our students. They ask if it is scripted, and I share with them that it is not.  They see in our students what they want for their children.  I wish that our own families could witness the passion and joy with which our upper schoolers speak about their experiences.  On a related note, almost every potential faculty candidate shares that the highlight of their visit was the time they got to spend speaking with our students.

Our community is the best resource for attracting potential families.  While it is a tired and overused adage, it does take a village.  I try to make an effort to speak with each family before or after these events, and the main question I ask is how they heard about us.  Now clearly my data is anecdotal, but significantly more than half of the families know someone who does or did attend W+H.  It is not always a direct connection, but it is usually no more than two or three degrees of separation.  And unsolicited, they almost always share how many good things they have heard about W+H.  So, first and foremost ... THANK YOU to our W+H family!!  We do our best to advertise thoughtfully and strategically, but a few words of praise from W+H community members about our school can make a monumental difference.

Families want opportunities for their children.  So many of the families who enroll in the Upper School mention the opportunities their children will have.  We subscribe to the idea that teenagers' interests and talents evolve; they are not fully defined at the age of 14.  The Upper School is structured in a way that students can participate in athletics, clubs, school performances, etc..., as well as have a curriculum that complements their interests and abilities.  You do not have to be just one thing – there are myriad opportunities to find areas for participation and leadership.  It is a growth mindset, not a no mindset.  This is unique amongst our peers and is something prospective families greatly value.

The obvious (I hope to everyone).  None of this happens without an amazingly dedicated and talented faculty and staff.  Sine qua non.

So like the intrepid workers who keep the Golden Gate Bridge gleaming, the members of our Wardlaw+Hartridge family are also painting the picture of why our school is so special.  Thank you to each and every student, parent, faculty and staff member who is part of that important process. It truly makes all the difference.