How to reduce registered student no-shows to day 1

Pursarth Tuladhar
November 14, 2022


Have you had students who signed up, and maybe even paid a deposit only to never show up for the first day of class? We’ve talked to so many school leaders that we know that this is a shockingly common problem. Sometimes students who register for classes request a refund, don't show up, or withdraw. We see it all the time, and of course, sometimes life gets in the way for a student, but we've identified the most common reasons that would be within the control of a school leader to influence and how you can reduce the occurrence. 

Lack of responsiveness to follow-ups from students

We sympathize with schools that are short-handed and can’t sometimes pick up the phone, but we’ve also encountered many students who are interested in a course, maybe even making the payment online to reserve a spot in the class, to then try and reach out via phone and e-mail to not hear back from the school. If they don’t hear back from the school, they get antsy and begin to look elsewhere.  
Students of course will have some inquiries such as  “what do I bring for the first day of class?”  because they are unfamiliar with the program. 
Our suggestion is that if you’re short-staffed and can’t respond to student inquiries quickly via e-mail, set up an autoresponder that lets the student know that their question was received and that they can expect a reply within 24 hours. We also encourage you to leave a phone number they can text in the event something is urgent.
As for responding to voicemails/missed calls, we encourage you to text the number back – sometimes students screen calls that aren’t saved in their phone but a simple “Hi this is ______ from _____ just following up from a missed call. How can I help you?” will go a long way to ensuring less students drop off before they start class. 

Class start dates change

We know that you’re looking for a minimum number of students before the class runs to cover the cost of the instructor but by far and away, changes to the class start dates are a major reason for why students will request a refund or be frustrated. Often students have made some life adjustments to make their schedule work. They’ve requested time off from work, potentially found a replacement to cover their shift, or arranged for child care. There’s a multitude of things they may re-organized for your school. Pushing back the start date due to low enrollment or any other reasons signals only concerning things to students – potentially that the school is not very good (cannot meet a minimum enrollment number) or disorganized.
Class start dates that are not communicated well or often changed discourage students from staying with the program. It can lead to bad word of mouth, poor reviews, requested refunds, and much more.
Please remember that often your best students will be busy and that many people who enroll in classes are already working. If the original class schedule changes, they may have no choice but to withdraw. 
We recommend that if canceling a class is a potential issue due to low enrollment that you run less classes so you can reliably fill them. In the event that you do need to make a change to a start date be as proactive as you possibly can for the students and communicate with them via email, text and call about the update. 

Hidden fees, costs that aren’t communicated well

Transparency is key, and someone’s perception of your school can quickly sour if they realize there are hidden out-of-pocket expenses. Do they need to pay for: a TB test, scrubs, textbooks, CPR/BLS, the state exam, etc., and it’s not clear? What about a registration fee if you have one, is that listed in the total cost? This is a simple and easy place to add detail and clarity to ensure that a student isn’t unaware of something important. 
To attract students to your school, you need to ensure that they know precisely what they will be paying for and when they will be paying for it. If there is any confusion about this, students will feel like they are being taken advantage of and may lose interest in the program.
Here is an example of a tuition fee breakdown

Requirements to enroll aren’t clear

Covid vaccination required? How about if any particular criminal charges are prohibited from obtaining licensure? What about specific documents required to enroll?
Listing out your requirements can save both you and the student time and hassle. For both the clear clarity on payments/costs and on requirements we recommend that they are posted on your website and also attached to a flyer that you can share too via email. 

No skin in the game

Even a small $25 refundable deposit influences student psychology and makes them perceive the course as something they are more committed to. Dreambound recommends requiring a payment before the first day of class to lock in a student’s spot in a course, but we do encourage the ability to make it refundable as a way to be student-friendly.


As much as there are different factors as to why students don’t start class, effectively communicating with them will lead to a better experience for both sides. Provide them with all the needed information prior to the start of the class and Inform them promptly if there are any changes. If possible, provide a good alternative, lowering their chances of withdrawing. 
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