One of the big unknowns piano teachers face every spring is whether or not you’ll have a full schedule in the fall. Will you have enough students?
As the current studio year wraps up and you close the door on your spring recital and last lessons, it’s essential to get families to confirm who is planning on coming back for another year of music-making with you.
If you don’t confirm returning students, you’ll face many uncertainties. Your future financial stability will be in question, your schedule will be unknown and you won’t know how much room you’ll have for new students.
How could you even answer new lesson inquiries if you don’t know how many of your current students are returning? New families who want to join your studio would be left up in the air, not knowing whether you’ll be able to accept them or not. You’ll risk losing these potential new students to other teachers who can give them a firm answer.
The solution to all of these big unknowns is pre-registration.
Simply put, spring pre-registration gives you the information you need in order to fill your studio in the fall. Your returning families will fill in a form that states their intention to return, which in turn will give you peace of mind.
When to Pre-register
Pre-registration pre-dates your registration period for new students. In my piano studio, I usually cover this in the final weeks of spring lessons to make it easier to collect the forms and information.
Even if you teach a summer term, it’s best to do pre-registration for fall lessons for all students as your spring session wraps up.
It’s best to give a clear deadline for the pre-registration period to encourage your students to reply in a timely manner. Later in the blog post I’ve included a sample letter to show how to professionally set out your deadline.
How to include a Pre-registration fee
The purpose of pre-registration is to give you assurance that your students are planning to return, beyond just giving their word. After all, you must manage your schedule and income and know how many new students to accept.
The only way to know for sure is to charge a non-refundable pre-registration fee. This is a small token amount that encourages families to have an honest discussion about future piano lessons. Most won’t agree lightly if the fee is non-refundable. In my studio this is only $20, but it does the trick.
Having a non-refundable pre-registration fee is the best way to get commitment from your most interested students.
What is the Pre-registration fee used for?
The pre-registration fee can be treated as the first instalment of your materials fee.
In short, the first $20 of the materials fee is paid at the time of early registration, is non-refundable, and then folds into the general student fee. In my studio I charge a $50 annual materials fee, $20 of which is paid early with Pre-registration, and the remaining $30 is due when piano lessons commence.
This gives me a small fund to spend on each student to give them high-quality materials and a first-rate educational experience. The overall fee can be used for method or supplementary books, stickers, printing recital programs and student incentives.
How Pre-registration makes scheduling easier
Trying to create your whole schedule in one sitting is an overwhelming task. There are so many details to consider as you try to fit the puzzle pieces together.
But pre-registration gives you a head-start on your schedule. It allows you to accommodate your keenest group of students first, and in so doing, splits the scheduling job into smaller bite-sized pieces.
Then later, when it’s time to add new students to schedule, it’s clear how many spots remain open (and what times are open) for new students to choose from.
The alternative is to wait and try to schedule new and returning students all at the same time, trying to please everyone equally.
Having a built-in pecking order makes your life so much easier!
Benefits of Pre-registration
Parents will want to know the benefits of registering early and paying the fee.
The first benefit is that they’ll get first pick of your lesson times. This is a case of the early bird and the worm. My pre-registering families get my wide-open schedule and get to choose any lesson spot.
The second benefit is that once they’ve registered, you’ll agree to hold their selected lesson time. These families make my life easier as a piano teacher, so I protect their time choices and won’t budge for other families who may take longer to decide or wait to register.
Because families know that I save the spot they choose, they are willing to pre-register year after year.
How to sell Pre-registration
The very first time I register a new family into my studio, I let them choose from my “available” (leftover) lesson spots. They get a limited selection the first time around, and I tell them why. This is my first opportunity to “sell” pre-registration.
I say, “My returning families have first pick of my schedule. It’s one of the benefits of being a returning student. New students choose from the remaining spots. It may not be the best time for you, but that only lasts one year. Next spring you can do pre-registration and have first pick of my schedule along with all of my other returning students.”
From day one, families know that if they pre-register, they’ll have the best chance to get the lesson time they want.
How to word the initial Pre-registration letter
When it comes time to launch your pre-registration, you can repeat the main benefit to families. In a nutshell, your message is, “When you pre-register, you make my schedule easier to put together. To thank you, I’m giving you first choice of lesson times.”
Here’s the part of the email I send out that explains the pre-registration form:
I ask that you return the last page to indicate your preferred times together with the holding fee of $20 by [insert date here]. This fee ensures that I reserve your place in my studio.
This helps me know how many students to plan for and how many new students I am able to accept. It also helps new students know they have a piano teacher.
If you are unsure about piano lessons at this time, please let me know and I will try to help you make the best choice. If you choose not to pay the holding fee and there is still room in September, I will certainly accept you into my studio. If there is no room left, I will help you find another teacher with the invitation open for you to return at any time in the future.
Remember that returning students who register early have first choice of time slots and that others, including new students, are scheduled second.
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns!
Yours in music,
P.S. In short, if you’d like to continue lessons in the fall, please return your time choices with a $20 holding fee by [insert date here]. ~ R
One Day Left reminder email
What if some of your families wait to respond? Give them a gentle nudge when there’s still one day remaining for pre-registration. Maybe they’ve just been busy and have forgotten to reply! Here’s the email I send:
Thanks to those of you who have pre-registered for piano lessons starting in the fall! I look forward to it!
If you’re planning on lessons but haven’t pre-registered yet, you still have a day to confirm your spot! Also, if you’re on the fence, it helps me to know you may come back.
The $20 holding fee folds into the $50 registration/materials fee due in September, meaning you’d pay $20 now and only $30 later.
☺ I’ll start confirming new students on Saturday ☺
How to handle a reply that doesn’t include the fee
What if a family responds but doesn’t include the fee? Here’s the email I send:
Thanks for getting back to me about piano lessons! I’m so excited that you want to continue!
To hold your spot, I’m looking for two things:
- Your preferred time(s).
- The $20 holding fee in an eTransfer.
Students who pre-register but don’t return
If a family pre-registered in the spring and yet backs out of lessons by the time fall lessons commence, reply graciously. This doesn’t happen very often to me so I’ve never had to address someone who wants their non-refundable pre-registration fee returned, but if someone asked for it I’d gently remind them that the fee was non-refundable without any further explanation.
Thanks for letting me know. I will miss [name] in my studio but understand that this is what you feel is the best decision at this time. Please know that you are welcome in my studio should you change your mind.
One more way Pre-registration makes scheduling easier
Pre-registration, when explained well to your clients, removes the expectation that you are responsible to accommodate last minute scheduling limitations or tardy families.
Once I had a returning family that waited until the first week of lessons to let me know they wanted to continue. Keep in mind that the majority of my returning families had already taken advantage of pre-registration, and that their lesson times were locked in. I’d even scheduled my new students! My schedule was done, and then I heard from a family that I assumed wasn’t returning because they hadn’t replied to any of my pre-registration emails (or regular registration emails, either).
Did I fret and wonder how I was going to fit them into my schedule? No. I offered this family the only two remaining open lesson spots. They replied that those times didn’t work for them. Did I try to move around my schedule for them? Actually, I couldn’t. They already knew how pre-registration worked, and it was on them that they hand’t replied.
I calmly and professionally responded that those were my only remaining spots and asked them to let me know if it could work for them, even though it wasn’t ideal.
It is easy for a caring teacher to take on too much burden from clients who drop the ball. It’s okay to have gentle but firm boundaries. Pre-registration allows for that, because your biggest responsibility is to those who registered early.
Pre-registration is win-win
When you pre-register your students you’ll know what to expect in the fall. You’ll have a good idea of your schedule, your income and how many new students to accept. Your studio families will know that their preferred time is reserved for them. And new students will know you have room to accept them. What can be better than confirming ahead of time so that all involved can kick back and enjoy the summer!
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I appreciate shares, comments and likes. Happy teaching! ❤
Video of the Week
Jesus Loves Me (Camp Re-mix) (Early Elementary, Level Prep A), fun music for early readers with percussive piano knocks! From the print and eBook Johnny Appleseed, 12 Joyful Songs and Prayers for Children, Early Elementary piano works with optional teacher duets. Or, Check out the Studio Licensed Jesus Loves Me Solo Bundle eSheet [includes two titles: Jesus Loves Me (Camp Re-mix) and Jesus Loves Me]!