From Your Mouths to Their Ears

Monday, October 1, 2018

By Quentin McDowell
Associate Head of School for External Relations

Each year, we enroll roughly 160 new students at Mercersburg Academy. Representatives from our Admission Office travel throughout the country and around the world to promote the school, and every prospective student who inquires about Mercersburg receives carefully curated print and digital communications. But despite the lengths we go to in order to spread the good word about Mercersburg, the most powerful tool we have to attract new families is a force that comes from beyond our walls: you, our current families.

Our initial goal is to get prospective students and their families to visit campus. Mercersburg is impressive on paper, but there’s nothing that better exhibits the tangible and intangible benefits of this school and community than experiencing it firsthand. Once they’ve been on campus, nearly 90 percent of the kids we interview go on to complete the application process, which speaks volumes about what they see and experience here.

In a generation where consumer anxiety is high, reliance on peer reviews (think Amazon, Yelp, and countless other online forums) has never been higher. These anxieties are only amplified when talking about our own children and their education. According to a recent survey of 2,700 parents of children applying to an independent school, the primary method used to research schools is conversations with parents who have children that currently attend or previously attended an independent school. Given the way we approach most purchases, it should come as no surprise that we rely so heavily on the testimonials of other parents to help drive our educational decision-making.

What does this mean for you? As a Mercersburg Academy parent, we are already relying on you as a word-of-mouth marketer. Each time you speak about your child’s experience or about the school, formally or informally, you are helping shape the public perception of Mercersburg. As current parents, you are primary influencers for others as they consider educational options for their children. Since you hold such significant sway in the market, we encourage you to be intentional and deliberate about spreading the good word about Mercersburg Academy. Here are a few small things you can do that will help in a big way:

1. Talk – When we travel across the country and alumni ask us what they can do to support their alma mater, one easy thing we ask of them is to try to find a way to talk about Mercersburg on a regular basis. The same is true for our parents. Perhaps it’s in a casual conversation at work or at dinner with friends. If all of our parents mention Mercersburg Academy once a day, that would put the school in nearly 7,000 conversations a week.

2. Post – Has your child had an exciting Mercersburg moment, or are you on campus for an event? Take a picture and post it on your social media, helping keep Mercersburg on people’s minds. Mercersburg Academy is also active on social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), and we encourage you to repost and retweet updates or news stories that help promote the amazing things our school and students are doing on campus and beyond.

3. Engage – One of the most effective roles our parents play in promoting the school is through personal engagement. This can range from phone calls with prospective families to attending an on-campus or off-campus event as a White Key representative. We’re always in need of enthusiastic parents to connect to families in the admission process. The opportunity to ask questions and look through the lens of a current parent is enormously helpful for those considering Mercersburg. If you would like more information about how you can help, please call or email us (717-328-6173 or

At the end of the day, Mercersburg Academy relies on you as parents to recommend and authenticate the Mercersburg experience to new families. From neighbors and coworkers to siblings and distant relatives, what you say about the school plays a critical role in the admission process. Belief in Mercersburg has never been stronger, and our commitment to providing an unparalleled education for young people from all backgrounds is as true as it was 125 years ago. We’re grateful for the trust you put in us to help bring out the best in your children, and we appreciate your active role in introducing the school to many other wonderful families!