Summers are often quiet in the world of higher ed, but it also means a new class of freshmen is just around the corner.
And getting from here to there - or in this case, from June until the start of the school year - takes a lot of work to ensure students are meeting their deadlines and are excited about their choice of institutions.
Yet despite best intentions, there are always going to be students who fall through the cracks, which create a drain in resources at a time when questions are most likely to peak. To help you get through the next few months, here are the areas that will ensure you make the most of your summer.
Optimize the website
Make sure information is clear and accessible. Update your website with current information and frequently asked student questions in order to clear up any confusion they might have. Of course, it also needs to have clear UX and design so students can quickly find what they’re looking for.
You should also add cutting-edge technology like a bot and live chat so students can ask questions as they’re getting accustomed to your institution. A chatbot can help students get information they can’t find on your website without burdening your administration. On the other hand, live chat provides students with the ability to easily get questions answered remotely at their convenience.
Make students feel welcome
Going from high school to college can be a big transition - especially when going from a small high school to a large university. The last thing students want is to feel just like a number. Send packets congratulating accepted students and help them celebrate with unique social media filters or photoshoots on campus to promote school spirit.
At orientation, consider pairing incoming freshmen with students on campus. In addition to helping freshmen adjust to campus, it provides them with mentors where they can learn more about the college experience and feel part of the community.
Encourage campus visits
Now that incoming freshmen can get the COVID-19 vaccine, students will likely want to visit the campus first-hand to experience the sights and sounds that they missed out on during the height of the pandemic. The on-campus visit is one of the most important factors for students deciding where to attend college.
Yet, most students missed this experience or had limited availability to visit the campus due to COVID restrictions. As a result, students might feel a bit anxious about starting classes when they haven’t done similar vetting compared to previous classes.
Now is the time to offer campus tours. Provide as much access as possible to help students get familiar with the campus and appreciate the journey they’re about to embark on.
If students can’t or don’t want to visit campus, offer virtual tours so students have the ability to see more of the campus at their convenience.
Proactively communicate deadlines and requirements
Don’t let students fall behind the eight ball. There are many deadlines with little time for students to make them. Keep students in the loop by letting them know when deadlines are approaching, how to submit required forms, and provide help in case they miss deadlines.
Students, especially ones who are first generation, may be overwhelmed by the dizzying amount of paperwork they need to complete before the start of classes. Keep students engaged by sending friendly, yet descriptive reminders that allow them to meet the various summer deadlines.
Implement a mitigation strategy
Institutions have all the data in the world on their students. From demographic data to their parents’ household income, administrators know everything they need to segment the general population of students with those that are at high risk to drop out.
By designating students with a greater risk profile from the rest of the population, you can then provide more proactive outreach and follow up accordingly to ensure they stay engaged. These students often face significant challenges in mental health, paying for college and keeping up academically.
As a result, it might be necessary to keep a closer eye on these students and escalate issues for one-on-one consultation as necessary.
With students expected back on campus for the first time in over a year, these freshmen won’t only be acclimating to a new environment, they will also have to transition to being fully in-person. By providing students with the necessary support, you will make this summer a seamless change and offer the personalized attention they desire.