Successful preparation and tactics for student recruitment are the first steps in operating a successful program. After all, the hard work you’ve invested in transportation, curriculum, and scheduling all depend on the right students coming through your program doors every day in the summer.


Here are some strategies to engage parents and to build student excitement for the summer:

Recruitment preparation !

Here are some strategies to plan effectively for future recruitment:

  • Set eligibility guidelines for program participants (age, grade, academic level, etc.). Who is your target population? What type of student will benefit the most from attending your program? Knowing this, and recruiting based on it, is crucial to ensuring your programming will be beneficial and engaging to your students.
  • Identify target schools for recruitment and establish communication with the administrative staff and/or teachers about the summer program.
  • Create recruitment materials that engage both students and parents. Messaging should be affirmative, empowering and positive, and include program details (program location, program dates and time, transportation options); include “sign up” instead of “apply” (as the word “apply” elicits negative reactions from parents based on parental focus groups); include, if applicable, the term “no cost” instead of “free” (“free” is sometimes synonymous with cheap, based on parental focus groups).
  • Looking for creative ways to market your summer program to students and families? Check out this Key Message Platform, developed by Crosby Marketing and based on parental focus groups conducted nationwide.
  • Consider translation of recruitment and registration materials, and identify a person or organization that can fulfill translation requests.

Recruitment tactics and strategies

OK, now you’re all prepared for recruitment. Here are some ways to launch recruitment for your program:

  • Backpack express: Staple your program’s flyer and registration materials together and send home with students at least two times during the registration period. Need a template for your program flyer? Look no further; click here.
  • Send home personal notes attached to the registration materials to parents of target students, encouraging them to complete, sign, and return.
  • If home addresses are available, mail the flyer and registration to the homes of target students.
  • Make individual phone calls to parents of eligible students about this exciting opportunity. Sometimes paper isn’t enough, a personal connection made over the phone or in person (see below) can make a difference.
  • Classroom presentations or assembly: Hold a presentation to target students about your program. Program staff should attend and present. Ensure that the presentations are engaging and show examples of activities (former participant presentation, videos, slideshow, etc.).
  • Distribute postcards to parents of target students at drop-off and pick-up times. Check out this postcard template, and once you’ve customized it, hand it to parents and students with a smile!
  • Presentations about your programming at any relevant meetings, e.g., PTA or parent/teacher conferences. If possible, consider hosting a parent information night at a local school.
  • Meet individually or in small groups with parents/guardians of students who are a good fit for your program.
  • Post program flyers on parent bulletin boards in local school. If the school has a school marquee, be sure to highlight your program.
  • If possible, post about the program using your organization’s social media. Encourage followers to share the post, or recommend the program to friends. Make sure to include the flyer and registration forms online so that parents can access everything they need.