Surviving back to school scheduling

Back-to-school scheduling is the biggest source of stress for me. 

Every fall I have to schedule approximately 60 students and it often feels like I am putting together a complex jigsaw puzzle.  I have tried many different methods of scheduling students.

  • Paper and Pencil
  • Spreadsheets
  • Whiteboards
  • Word documents
A desktop with a computer, office supplies, and iPhone, a calendar, and a planner with post it notes.  A man is writing on a post it note in the planner, trying to figure out his back-to-school scheduling.

The problem was, that they were, time-consuming, frustrating, and ineffective. After over 20 years of headaches and wasting time, I finally discovered a tool that allows me to streamline back-to-school lesson scheduling in an efficient manner with a minimal amount of stress...and it’s FREE!

What is this magic you ask?

A simple survey.

Using A Survey To Streamline Your Back-To-School Scheduling Process

There are tons of survey creators out there that you can use to create your survey, but we will be focusing on Google Forms. Mainly because it’s free, user-friendly, and most people are already familiar with it.

What To Include In Your Survey

Your survey obviously needs to include basic information, but can (and should) contain a variety of other questions.

Basic Information

  • Name
  • Age
  • Grade
  • Birthday
  • Home Address
  • Phone number
  • Email

Scheduling Options

The more detailed you can get with scheduling options the better! List clear, detailed instructions on your form. Be very specific and give examples.

Photo of google form with survey for back to school scheduling.  Form includes the following text:
Fall lessons
Lessons will begin the week of August 8
Lessons will be available both in person and online.
I will be teaching in the following schools as well as online and in my home studio.
Please be as detailed as possible with your lesson time selections.

Agree To Your Lesson Policies

Include a link to your studio policy sheet as well as a box that says “I have read and agree to the studio policies.” Include a yes and no checkbox and make it a required question.

How To Create A Survey Using Google Forms

Using Your Back-To-School Scheduling Survey To Grow Your Music Studio

Not only will the survey make your life easier when it comes time for back-to-school scheduling, but it can also actually help you grow your studio. Consider including these questions in your survey.

Ask For A Testimonial

Include a box to ask for a testimonial. You can use these to boost your authority on your website as well as on your social media.

Ask for Referrals

Do you have a referral program? If you don’t I talk all about it in my signature program Zero to Waitlist. Use the survey to both remind students and their parents about your referral program and collect the names and emails of potential students.

Gather Data On Potential Programs

If you’ve been thinking about starting up an ensemble or hosting a summer camp, asking about it in your survey is a great way to gauge interest in such a program and determine its success.

Back-To-School Scheduling as a Travel Teacher

This system is perfect for use in a home studio, but we all know that scheduling gets even trickier if you are a traveling teacher…I know…I’ve been there.

A survey can still be used even if you travel to teach lessons, it will just need to be tweaked a bit.

If you are one of the lucky ones who get to go into the schools to teach private lessons, simply modify the form to include School, class period, and any enrichment times the student can use to attend lessons.

If you are a traveling teacher who teaches lessons in the student’s homes, you will need to modify your teaching times to overlap. Instead of 2-4, 5-6, 7-9, you will have options such as 2-4, 3-5, 4-6, etc. That way you can factor in drive time when scheduling.

Key Items To Remember For Successful Back-To-School Scheduling

  1. Communication
  2. Organization
  3. A plan of action


The first week of school, start by contacting teachers, students, and parents either by email or text message to confirm schedules and start dates.  If you haven’t received a response in four days,  send a follow-up message.   Once school schedules and lesson start dates are confirmed, outline a schedule for each day of the week using a spreadsheet or app. (You can also use a written calendar like the Clever Fox Daily or the Erin Condren Daily Duo.)


Your email inbox and text messages can start to become overwhelming once the survey results are in and the confirmation emails begin to go out, so organization is very important.  Set up email folders to keep responses organized.  As text messages come in, simply note them on your spreadsheet on scheduling app and move on with your day.

Google Forms will even let you cut down on administrative time by keeping a list of who has not yet responded.  You can send a reminder to the unresponsive accounts with a link to the survey.  After a week, try sending the survey link using a different method of contact such as a text message.

Have a plan

If you are teaching in one location, start assigning students to each day.  If you teach in multiple locations, assign a location to each day of the week and then schedule students accordingly.

How To Avoid Scheduling Conflicts

Offer Group lessons

Group lessons are great for beginners and allow you to fill one lesson slot with several students. I only offer this option for beginners in my studio. Once the student has a basic understanding of the instrument and has proven that they are willing to work, they are “invited” to take 1-on-1 private lessons.

Email students in waves

Emailing students in waves can cut back on the time you need to sort through responses and give you the ability to offer priority scheduling to your current students. An example of a wave email is:

  • Year-round students – these students work hard all year long, are dedicated and get priority scheduling
  • Last year’s preferred students  – the students who did not take over the summer but still worked hard throughout the school year and you enjoy teaching them
  • New students
  • Last year’s problematic students – students who were disrespectful, didn’t practice or paid late on a regular basis, and those with problematic parents.

Things to remember when scheduling

  • Don’t forget to schedule drive time – if you are teaching lessons from home you don’t have to worry about this one
  • Don’t forget to schedule lunch – a hangry teacher is NOT a good thing
  • Schedule time for administrative tasks such as bookkeeping, billing, trips to the bank, etc.
  • Do you have any time set aside for make-up lessons?

I like to keep one morning a week free to do bookkeeping and billing, run personal errands, schedule appointments, etc.  It also allows me a morning to schedule make-up lessons if needed.
Once your schedule is complete, send it out to your students along with a reminder not to forget to bring payment to their first lesson.

In conclusion

Don’t forget to look at your schedule every day!  There is nothing worse than showing up at the wrong place on the wrong day…don’t ask me how I know!

Back-to-school scheduling is stressful for everyone but it only lasts for a short period of time.  You will survive and using a survey will almost make it seem easy!