With so much branding, marketing, and social media going on, we rarely look at what gives people their first impression of an independent school’s image: the school name itself.

While you can’t do anything to change your school’s name (unless there’s a powerful reason), you can and should look at it from your external audience’s point of view.

Let’s break independent school names down into segments. 

The “The”

When independent schools have “The” as the first part of their name, it projects a certain… snootiness.

According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, “the” in this case means: 

(pronounced stressing “the”) used to indicate that someone or something is the best known or most  important of that name or type : he was the hot young piano prospect in jazz.

While the use of “the” may benefit your school by elevating it above the crowd, it may harm it by making it seem unapproachable, inaccessible, and elitist.

The “Distinguisher”

The part the distinguishes one school from another is the foundation name.

This can reflect a location:
Millbrook School (Millbrook, NY)
Saint James School (Saint James, MD)
The Lawrenceville School (Lawrenceville, NJ) 

Or the name of the founder:
Emma Willard School (Troy, NY)
McCallie School (Chattanooga, TN)
William Penn Charter School (Philadelphia, PA)

Or a religion:
Saint Andrew’s School (Boca Raton, FL)
Friends Academy (Locust Valley, NY)
Marymount High School (Los Angeles, CA)

Or a teaching philosophy:
Montessori School of Denver (Denver, CO)
The Waldorf School of Atlanta (Decatur, GA)

There are more in this category, but the point is that the name provides information about legacy, religion, or teaching style, which in turn projects an image. Occasionally, the audience may get tripped up if they don’t know what the distinguisher means. Is William Penn Charter a “charter school?” Does “Friends” mean buddies? How is a Montessori school different from other independent schools?

The “Tail”

The tail end of a school’s name adds its own punch. “School” is the simplest, most neutral description. “College Prep/Preparatory” conveys that all students are on a track to go to college or university and are being properly prepared to do so. But it also connotes the term “preppy,” bringing with it visions of Lilly Pulitzer, Ralph Lauren, bow ties, and monograms. “Academy” conjures up a Hogwarts kind of place, or a military school.College” signifies the school’s roots are in the British secondary school.

The lesson here is that when branding your school, be sure to take into account the very first thing that establishes its image, the name, and adjust for it in your marketing efforts. 

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