Is Your School a School, an Academy, or an Institute?

And do you know the difference between the terms?  After all, the Chinese proverb states, “The beginning of wisdom is calling things by their right names.”   If you’ve ever suffered the embarrassment of calling someone by an incorrect name, you’ll understand the wisdom this statement holds.  One of the problems relative to our work in the field of schools which charge tuition is that terms are used interchangeably.  Tuition assistance, financial aid, financial assistance, scholarship, tuition reduction, and many others all result in the “lowering” of tuition, so they all must mean the same thing, right?  It’s that kind of thinking that gets us into trouble.

So let’s see what Dictionary.com has to say about the terms which may identify your school:

  • School – An institution where instruction is given.
  • Academy – An institution for the advancement of a particular field of study or special instruction in a subject (usually associated with a secondary school).
  • Institute – An organization for carrying on a particular work.

Now, not to say that you should change your school’s name, but consider the meaning of the words. “School” is applicable to any type of venue (public, private, faith-based, etc.) where learning occurs. “Academy” comes closer to what faith-based schools do, since the “special subject” is the faith identity infused throughout the curriculum and actions of the school.

But look at “Institute” – an organization for carrying on particular work. While it’s usually associated with something technical (like technology or electronics) or scientific (like biology or chemistry), Catholic and Christian “schools” especially carry on the work of the Master teacher.

From a marketing standpoint, that can be big – to demonstrate our faith identity and culture in a profound way. It’s also quite interesting when you use the letters of the school for marketing purposes. For example, St. Mary Institute in Amsterdam, NY, could choose to create bumper stickers in an oval shape with the letters “SMI” centered in a large, block letter font. In very small print, around the perimeter of the oval, the school name could be written out as well as a Web address or phone number. Such information is usually a shock to one that gets up close to read it – after all, they’re probably thinking, “SMI – I’ve never heard of that Island…I wonder if that’s near Jamaica.”   You have certainly grabbed that person’s attention in a memorable way.

If more and more cars with ovals attract more and more people in the same manner, you’re creating local “buzz” about your school.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2009-2014 (Original Publication Date: 20090525)