A yearbook staff application might seem like an overly formal, entirely unnecessary step when recruiting students to help with the yearbook on a volunteer or after-school club. It’s not.
Sure, an after-school yearbook club creates a low-stakes environment for students to unleash their creative energy and to learn some awesome new skills, but it can also create problems: One, you could end up with more students than any sane adult could ever hope to manage; two, without a grade hanging over their heads, students could lose the motivation to finish their work. In some cases, you might end up dealing with both.
That’s why you need to use a yearbook staff application.
A yearbook staff application is essential to putting together a dedicated, enthusiastic team of student volunteers, and it lets you achieve four key things related to your yearbook recruitment and planning before you even have your first meeting:
- You identify the yearbook club roles you need, and how many people you need to fill them.
- You limit the size of the staff you need to complete the book.
- You attract students who are actually interested in doing the work needed for the yearbook.
- You find out what your students are good at and interested in before getting started.
Read the rest of this post, and you’ll know exactly when you should use a yearbook staff application and what to look for in student volunteers. The payoff? A yearbook staff that’s exactly the right size and that will stick around until it’s time to hand out the yearbooks.
When to Use a Yearbook Staff Application
In a perfect world, yearbook club would be an open door, where anyone who wants to participate could just walk in, take a seat at a computer and start plugging away at whatever needs to be done. But we know that can’t always be the case.
Here, then, are the times you’ll probably find yourself needing to use an application process as you recruit your students:
- Demand outweighs supply. As in you have too many students interested in the yearbook. We’ve seen this happen at schools where the yearbook is a big part of school culture. So many students are geeked up about the yearbook that it seems like nearly everyone at the school is itching to help make it. But if you have everyone help and there’s not enough work to really go around, you can end up with disgruntled group. Not fun.
- Eager starts end with empty seats. As in you have the right amount of students at the beginning of the year, but they drop off, one by one, until you’re left with a few dedicated (and soon to be overworked) students. If you’ve ever experienced this situation, you know how stressful it can be.
- Everything feels like a disorganized mess. As in you know what you need to get done—and you’ve got the students to help you—but you don’t know who’s going to do what or how anything’s going to get done. It’ll sort itself out, like it always does, but for a few days, maybe even weeks, it’s a nerve-wrecking beginning to yearbook club.
In these situations, a yearbook staff application can sort of serve as a bouncer at your open door.
You’re not necessarily using the application to weed through students and pick your dream team; you’re using it to find out who’s really into the yearbook and who isn’t. By giving students a little extra work up front, you’ll more easily find those students who are ready to do the work and you’ll more easily know which parts of the yearbook they want to help with.
Sure, it’ll reduce the number of student volunteers, but it’ll also increase the likelihood of you having a highly motivated team.
The 3 Things to Look for in Yearbook Staff Applications
Just because the yearbook staff application is serving as a “bouncer,” it doesn’t mean you should review them. There’s lots of good stuff in there, and it can help you better understand your students and their motivations for joining the club.
So, you should read them. And, when you do, look for these things:
Did they complete the application?
This is fairly basic, but check over the whole application to make sure it was actually completed.
If a student scoffs at the idea of applying to work on the yearbook, or they crumple and toss the application into a backpack abyss, what are the chances that they’d be a committed contributor?
Sure, you could have an incredible photographer in the building who shuns formalities like “applications” and “attendance” in the name of art. By and large, though, an application is a great way to gauge future commitment and get to know your staff.
How do they fit the puzzle?
You need a diverse yearbook committee. Roles you need to fill include (but are by no means limited to):
- Sales & Marketing Pros (those kids tweeting in the hallway between classes are about to become your best friends)
- Editor(s), for written work and images
- Interviewers/journalists in training
- Jacks & Jills of all trades
These students are going to be the lifeblood of yearbook, and getting to know their strengths and weaknesses at the beginning of the year can save you major stress down the road.
On your application, make sure you create a space for students to designate any skills or interests they might have. It’s also helpful to ask students which skills they’d like to develop.
Not only does this help you get to know your staff: it give you an idea of the roles underclassmen could fill the following year, too.
Is yearbook a priority?
Students are spread pretty thin. With stuff like school work, sports, Pokemon Go, and part-time jobs and at-home chores, it can be hard to commit to another activity.
Your yearbook staff application should ask students to be honest with the amount of time they can give. Just because a kid is busy doesn’t mean he or she can’t contribute in a unique and useful way. By using the information provided on the application you can set realistic expectations on an individual basis, ensuring a well-rounded, happy staff.
Set the Tone on Day When Distributing Applications
When students come to you for applications (you know, that time in the day when you tell them just how fun yearbook club is), be sure not to sugarcoat the experience.
You should absolutely highlight the fact that working on the yearbook is rewarding and allows for the application and development of skills (photography, editing, design, interviewing, and so many more), but this shouldn’t be an outright sales pitch. Be open and honest. Your goal should be to build enthusiasm amongst your prospective staff members while also making it clear that creating a yearbook takes work.
If you think that attending every club meeting is important, make that clear; if you want students attending as many school events as possible, tell them upfront; if you’re willing to be flexible on attendance, but expect work gets done at home instead, let them know that, too.
Setting expectations, in terms of attendance or general contributions, is a great way to establish which students are going to take things seriously and who’s on the fence before you even hand them an application.