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Mapping Magic: Discover Your School's Neighborhood Reach With Free Tools

June 17, 2024
Linda Haitani
Chief Innovation Officer

Once upon a time, there was a small but mighty school known as Learning Lantern in the bustling town of Edutopia. The school was famous for its dedicated teachers, enriching programs, and vibrant community. Families from all over wanted to enroll their children at Learning Lantern, but as the community of Edutopia grew, so did the challenge of traffic and commute times for families.  

Mr. Bright, the school's financial aid director, often wondered if they were truly reaching all the families who could benefit from Learning Lantern’s unique educational experience. He knew that understanding which neighborhoods were within driving distance during typical commuting times was crucial for expanding their student base and ensuring the school's sustainability.

Determining which neighborhoods fall within driving distance of your school is essential for understanding and expanding your potential student base. Two excellent, free tools that can help you achieve this are using a commute time technique in Google Maps and the Walk Score "Commute Zone" feature. Let’s dive into how these tools can assist you.

Google Maps "Commute Zone"

Google Maps is widely known for its user-friendly interface and comprehensive mapping capabilities. While it doesn't have a direct "Commute Zone" feature, you can creatively use its functionalities to determine driving distances within a given time frame.

Steps to Use Google Maps:

  1. Enter Your School’s Address: Open Google Maps and type in your school’s address.
  2. Use the Directions Feature: Click on the "Directions" button and input a common address from a neighborhood you are interested in.
  3. Set Commuting Times: Click on "Leave now" and change it to "Depart at" or "Arrive by" to set specific commuting times, such as during morning rush hour.
  4. Adjust Route Options: While you could enter multiple destination addresses and determine the commute time for each individual location, you can also simply drag the destination point around the map and Google Maps will adjust the commute time for each new destination point.

Walk Score "Commute Zone"

Walk Score is another excellent tool that provides detailed information about commute times using various modes of transportation, including driving. Its "Commute Map" feature is particularly useful for visualizing commute zones.

Steps to Use Walk Score:

  1. Enter Your School’s Address: Go to the Walk Score website and enter your school’s address.
  2. Check Commute Times: Click on the "Commute to" pencil icon to see commute times by car, public transit, walking, and biking to a specific address.
  3. Set Commute Preferences: Set the desired commuting time and select the mode of transportation. The map will display the areas within the specified commuting time.
  4. Scroll Down to the Travel Time Map: To visualize the commute zone, simply select the mode of transportation, the travel time parameter, and choose to view the “rush hour” results.


Both Google Maps and Walk Score offer user-friendly, free tools to help you determine which neighborhoods are within driving distance of your school. By leveraging these resources, you can gain valuable insights into your potential student base, enabling you to make informed decisions about outreach and marketing strategies. Whether you’re assessing the accessibility of your school for current families or exploring new areas for potential growth, these tools provide the essential data you need to ensure your school’s reach and appeal.

By understanding the commuting zones using these tools, you can better align your school’s financial aid strategies, marketing efforts, and community engagement initiatives to ensure that you are effectively reaching and supporting the families in your catchment area.








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