Updated: Oct 15
by Trevor Waddington, Principal, Truth Tree Consulting
DISCLAIMER: I am not advocating that you sockpuppet a review. Nor am I suggesting you tell parents exactly what to write.
We all know reviews can play a significant roll in a family’s enrollment decision. In fact, experts say it takes FORTY good reviews to undo ONE lousy review. I think that’s a bit much in our industry, but a well-crafted and cleverly-timed review can wreak havoc on your enrollment outlook.
To counteract that scathing, one-star review, here is the ultimate private school review and the psychology of WHY.
Let’s dissect this review.
Rawthenticity - a combination of raw and authentic - is a blend that millennials love when it comes to reviews.
If your school has 43 reviews, and 40 of them are 5-stars, the user will likely disregard them as “too good to be true.” For those parents that do buy into those reviews, you set the bar very high, and anything less than perfect may have such a parent questioning enrollment each year.
The Waddington Effect
When we were first looking for schools for our two children, I was skeptical...Two years later, I am enthralled.
I searched and searched for the name of this effect and could not find it. Here’s hoping “The Waddington Effect” will catch on. If you do know the name that describes the following scenario, leave a comment below.
The author was very skeptical.
The author is now a believer.
If you are ≤ “very skeptical”, especially if you harbor the same skepticism, you will become a believer because the author became a believer.
The Authority Bias
I’m an educational psychologist, so I’m pretty up-to-date on what constitutes a well-balanced education.
We tend to ascribe greater accuracy to the opinion of an authority figure and be more influenced by it. So whether you think the author is bragging about his job or not, he has a level of expertise. The bigger the purchase for goods or services, the more we rely on expert advice. And if we are rookie buyers, we rely on authority figures to guide us even more.
The Ellsberg Mob
...my wife loved the school, and my kids had their hearts set on Truth Tree Academy. Plus, everyone I talked to said Truth Tree was the best.
Daniel Ellsberg’s Paradox demonstrates that people are wired to avoid risk. In this review, you’ve got 2 children, 1 mother, and “everyone” the author talked to. That’s a lot of people who think highly of Truth Tree Academy, thereby making it a less risky investment.
We looked at several schools with long histories of excellence and better reputations for rigorous academics.
It’s a big no-no in our industry to answer the inevitable parent question, ‘why should we choose your school over school X, Y, or Z?’ This review gives indirect indices that Truth Tree Academy is better than the other K-12 schools in the area. It doesn’t take a genius reader to surmise who the other K-12 schools are, which can be as sticky as a bad review on the other schools’ review pages.
They are becoming what our world needs: people willing to stand for what they believe in and lean into discomfort to make the world a better place.
We usually tout how a product or service made us feel or how it made us better up to the present. In this review, the author takes it to the future, espousing what the school is doing more than is typically prescribed. The use of bold language in this section - people willing to stand for what they believe in - elicits a strong emotional reaction and a powerful connection to the school.
...they have nurtured and educated two very different kids to heights I did not think was imaginable.
In the age of COVID, flexibility and the ability to pivot in real-time is important. How well you can education “two very different kids” speaks volumes to a savvy parent who understands that for 13 years, at a K-12 school, their child is going to evolve and how s/he learned best in 2nd grade made be different in 9th.
4-Star Rawthenticity (the remix)
My only hangup is, and the reason I gave it four stars is...
The reason the author gave it 4 stars was because of transportation. If that is not a factor for you, who cares. On top of that, if that’s the worst problem at the school, according to this expert, then it sounds pretty good to me.
So there you have it, the ultimate review.
The next step is to seek out the parent at your school who has the capacity to mirror such a review and ask him or her, 'hey, I know you love our school and want to help. A great way to help parents learn more about Truth Tree Academy is to go on Niche, Private School Review, etc. and write a review about your experience that that of your children.'
Then watch the message spread!