A strong sense of community and engagement will benefit just about anything with noble ambitions, including a college. To understand the benefits of student engagement in college, it's best to look at what campus would look like if students weren't engaged. At that point, you'll have a sea of unmotivated individuals crisscrossing the campus with no particular direction in mind. And in that climate, it wouldn't be long before the college's reputation began to suffer.
The good news is that increasing college student engagement is not an impossible task. It's not even an expensive task. All it requires is some time and effort and the motivation to make things better. On this page, we're going to offer some college student engagement ideas. Incorporate them into your college using an automated mass messaging system like Text-Em-All, and it won't be long before you notice an increased sense of community and student happiness.
How to Increase Incoming College Student Engagement
It's always best to hit the ground running. If you're going to invite students to study at your college, then it's up to you to ensure that they feel welcome and engaged from the moment they step foot on campus through to their graduation. But how? Follow the tips below to get started.
It's important to remember that while the campus may be familiar to you, it'll be mostly new to your students, who will likely only have visited once or twice before. And not only that but for most new students, this will be their first time living away from home. While some students will naturally throw themselves into college life, others may require more time to adjust, which can work against engagement.
One way to help incoming students feel at home straight away is to welcome them to campus. There are multiple ways to do this. In the beginning, you can use an automated mass message system such as Text-Em-All to push a text through to their phone, welcoming them to the university. You can also host orientation events and tours around the facilities, so they can meet other people and get their bearings early on.
Everyone learns in different ways. Sometimes, this is due to the way their mind works; at others, it's because of a disability or other impairment. If you're going to make sure that every student is engaged at your college, then it's crucial to ensure that your materials and events are accessible to all. A little bit of common sense and understanding of students' different needs can help with this.
On a broader level, accessibility means not overloading the students with more than they can handle. In the very early days, keep the information to the essentials; even how you communicate this information should be concise and to the point.
Create Events and Extracurricular Activities
Your college should provide a space for students to realize their best selves and fulfill their potential. One of the key differences between high school and college is that students have -- or should have -- many more options for extracurricular activities. This drives engagement because it fuels excitement and shows the student everything that college can offer them. During the early days of the semester, make sure that your students know all the university student engagement activities that you provide; it'll help them get involved with campus life. You can even set aside a special day where clubs and other groups open their doors to new students.
Even the students who arrive ready for action won't have everything, or anything, figured out yet. It takes time to slip into university life. First-year students will be mainly hanging out with one another, and that can feel like the blind leading the blind. One way to get around this is to ask more senior students to volunteer their time. If an incoming student is paired with someone who already understands the university, they'll ask questions and, more broadly, get a feel for what life at the university is like.
First of all, who doesn't love free swag? It's a tried and tested recipe for getting people on board. Second, it forms an allegiance. Your new students won't just be looking at the university from the outside: they'll suddenly be representatives of the college. People can get highly attached to the t-shirt or water bottle they were given during the early days of their student life, so get some free swag printed and help them build the connection.
Develop Your Culture
If you're trying to get your students to engage with your college, you have to give them something to engage with. A formless college with no identity will test any student's engagement levels, no matter how willing they are to be involved. Developing your culture is, of course, a big task and not something that can be enacted overnight. It's also not something that can run on autopilot or stay static for too long. If you think it's time for a cultural refresh, then think about the values you want your college to represent, and create the framework that'll allow those values to flourish.
Why Student Engagement Is Important
Now that we've looked at how you can better engage your incoming college students let's look at why you should. We mentioned earlier how it could help students feel comfortable in their new surroundings, but that's just one part of a much more significant piece.
Produces Better Results
We all know how much better we work and perform when engaged with what we're doing. The same can be said for students. If they feel a part of a college, then they'll be more likely to turn up to class, submit their work on time, and always strive to do their best. Many students only begin putting in the required amount of effort to reach their potential later on down the line, when they sense that it's now or never. But with a focused effort from the college side, students can be pushed to engage with their work early on. This will, of course, benefit the student but also the university.
Bridges The Gap Between Student and Faculty
The relationship between students and faculty at university is much closer than between high school students and teachers, for apparent reasons. But this doesn't happen automatically. A student that is not engaged with campus life is much less likely to turn to a faculty member for help and support compared with a student that is. When students are involved in campus life, they'll naturally develop positive relationships with faculty because they are also heavily involved.
Cooperation Between Students
Engagement isn't just about the self. It might begin that way, but it doesn't end there. It can become a flow of water that influences people and places around it. If you've worked to maximize the engagement of your students, then you'll find that the students begin to lift each other up. This is something that can only happen when everyone feels comfortable and confident in what they're doing. What follows will be a dynamic and rich set of students that elevate the college.
Benefits the College
If everyone is operating at their highest level, then everyone wins. An engaged student population will help make the college a diverse and rich learning environment, which every learning institution should strive for. Colleges have always been about so much more than just places of learning; they're arenas in which ideas are shared, passions are developed, and life-long impacts are made. If everyone at your college buys into the potential on offer, then that's just what your college will be.
How Do You Develop Engagement?
The tips we mentioned earlier about how you can increase engagement among your students when they first arrive will get the ball moving in the right direction. But it's not the end of the work. Moving forward, colleges must continue to develop student engagement. There's little value in having a student engaged for the first three weeks of term, only for things to slip away later on. Below you'll find a handful of tips that'll both maintain and develop engagement.
Some people are going to get all the encouragement and support they need from their classes. But others won't; they might need a little extra help. One way to ensure they get this help is to assign an advisor to each student and set a visitation timetable. This will help as it'll give a respected staff member the chance to talk to the student on a one-to-one basis. The impact of student success of these meetings can be extraordinary, and especially so if the student admires their advisor.
If you're going to get maximum engagement from your students, then you can't make them feel as if they're just a receptor for your communications. It should be a conversation. Indeed, one of the best ways to develop is to periodically get their opinion about their satisfaction with the college and what changes they think should be made. There are multiple ways to do this, including by putting together some engagement survey questions.
First and foremost, the aim is to help ensure that your students feel comfortable at college and like they're doing there. But to maximize engagement, it's essential to look at initiating some long-term planning into your student operations. An automated messaging service, like Text-Em-All can help you deliver messages quickly to engage more students.
People tend to put in more effort when they know that something won't last forever. At some point in the not too distant future, they'll leave college and go out into the big bad world. If you want your students to make the most of their time at the college, you should provide ideas for them to bite their teeth into, including what careers they may select in the future, the passions they want to pursue, and things like that.
As we've seen, there are plenty of benefits to putting student engagement at the forefront of your college operations, because simply put, there are a million advantages and no downsides.