6 Proven Strategies to Recruit Students for Your Program

I usually like the foreign language teachers in my school. Same for the music people, the drama department, and everyone in the family/consumer sciences wing. But not this week. This week we’re fighting.

I should explain: we’re actually fighting over students. See, it’s registration week, and we need to keep our numbers high. Large registration numbers represent student demand for your classes. Demand shows the vitality of your department in the only way some administrators understand. For some teachers, it means more budget money, and for others, it validates all the work they are doing on a day-to-day basis.

For me, large registration numbers used to mean that the program I was trying to build was growing the way I wanted and needed it to. Now, ten years later, the big numbers of kids wanting to take an art class shows that we are continuing to do things right (at least most of the time). I want my department to continue to grow and continue to thrive. So I continue to recruit.

Here are 6 strategies I have used to help recruit enough kids to grow and maintain a thriving art department.

recruit students

1. Talk to your kids!

Make sure current kids are coming back to take more classes–this is your easiest “sell.” If kids aren’t sure what they might want to take next year, offer them specific suggestions of what you think might work for their interests and strengths.

2. Talk to your kids’ friends!

Ask your art kids who they know that might want to take art. Bring them into the room to see what’s going on. Have your current kids help convince their friends that art is the place to be.

3. Bribe Speak with the counselors.


Ask your counseling department to talk to kids about art or suggest it as an option for kids who don’t know which classes to take. You never know when a kind word or a well-placed candy bar might get people started on talking up your program.

4. Advertise

Hang posters in the hall. Be creative. Have fun. Make them colorful and grab some attention. But never, ever disparage another program (e.g., “Take Art–It’s so much better than Drama!”) This only leads to animosity and hard feelings.

5. Stop Random Kids in the Hallways

Put on your used car salesperson shoes, polish up your 5-second elevator pitch, and get to work. Yeah, they might look at you weirdly, but they were going to do that anyway. They’re high schoolers. Just take a few seconds to talk, find out about them, and see if they’re interested. You never know when you might find a gem.

6. Ask Other Teachers

margin doodles

You know those doodles we love to see on the margins of the page? Your colleagues notice them too. And no matter how they feel about those drawings creeping over the edges of the paper, they remember them. Ask around and see if there’s any hidden talent in their classes of which you are unaware.

Recruiting can be a vital part of building up a new program or keeping a successful program going. It may not always be glamorous, but for many of us, it is incredibly important.

What does your enrollment look like? Do you recruit kids for your classes?

What recruiting strategies have worked for you?

Tim is a high school teacher from Omaha, NE. His teaching and writing focus on the development of creativity, problem-solving, and higher-order thinking skills.


  • Chris Noel

    We also send “advertising” posters to the middle school about 2 weeks before the 8th graders register for high school. We ask the middle school art teacher to talk about high school art possibilities, including free college credit for some advanced classes. There is an 8th grade orientation night at the high school. The art department is there with examples of projects, video, & descriptions of classes.

  • Nikki Boram

    we are having a hard time with our junior high numbers because our music program is so strong, and they “advertise” with a trip to an area amusement park. How do we compete with that?

    • Mr. Post

      Tell the kids about the live model, nude figure drawing lesson you teach each year.

  • Also, send a PowerPoint or video to your feeder school art teachers. They can show it to the next class that is moving up to your school. Great way to get kids excited!

  • liz

    Do all you wrote plus for advance art course send a personal letter home to parents and students to consider take next level of art. They love getting them!

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