With the fall 2022 semester on the horizon, colleges and universities are already beginning to think about how they’ll welcome new students to campus. In the past, this often meant planning in-person university orientation and welcome weeks where university students could meet new friends and settle in.
The next generation of incoming classes is different, though. These are students who’ve had years of their educational experience interrupted. They represent huge shifts in perception about the college experience. For a university to show it can deliver on its promise of a high-quality experience, engagement with students must begin earlier in a student’s admissions journey.
Why Universities Must Prioritize Engagement with Students Before Arrival
After more than two years of navigating educational disruptions, social isolation, and a whole spectrum of pandemic-related stressors, students have high expectations for their college experience. Studies show that many schools are still experiencing low enrollment rates, a trend that started even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Students are also re-thinking the purpose and value of college. They want to make sure they’ll get a return on their education investment, and are taking the decision seriously. Many prospective college students are even putting down deposits at multiple institutions to keep their options open. This makes it extremely challenging for institutions to predict how many students will be on campus in the fall, and essentially means schools still have to recruit students even after they enroll.
Advantages of Early Engagement for Students
A student-centered approach is essential to any quality engagement initiative. Deciding where to go to college is a huge decision for prospective students at the undergraduate and graduate level. Attending college for the first time can feel overwhelming, especially for students heading out of state. Use an engagement strategy that makes them feel like they belong before stepping foot on campus. Paint a picture of them as part of a tight-knit community of thriving university students with shared passions and interests beyond just a major.
Strong engagement for students also builds momentum for strong alumni engagement. If schools wait until students have graduated to try and build relationships with them, it’s too late.
Advantages of Early Engagement for Universities
Engaging with students early and building momentum for strong alumni relations benefits universities in many ways.
- Improve institutional data: Early engagement allows universities to begin collecting meaningful data on their students right away. By ensuring college experiences are tailored to their students, universities can increase student retention and the likelihood that they’ll stay on for additional programs or post-graduate degrees.
- Support recruitment efforts: As the quality of data and on-campus experiences improve, recruitment efforts naturally will too. Early engagement shows prospective students that a university genuinely cares about their experiences beyond just academics.
- Increase alumni participation and fundraising: Don’t wait to first start alumni engagement after students leave campus. Lifelong engagement as alumni is all dependent on the level of engagement felt as an undergraduate student. Students attend universities for only a few years, but they are alumni for the rest of their lives. Early engagement gives alumni relations teams a higher likelihood of building enthusiastic, committed, and involved donors.
Early engagement helps foster a future alumni network of successful professionals who are a living testimony to the value an institution provides.
Welcome New Students This Fall and Beyond with BrightCrowd
If you’re still relying on one-way promotional emails and brochures to welcome new students, it’s time to supplement your strategy with a simple yet effective student engagement tool – digital welcome books from BrightCrowd.
With BrightCrowd, students will get:
- Instant community: Students can easily find peers who share similar interests, meet dorm neighbors, and connect with others pursuing the same degree path. A university welcome book can help students feel confident about finding their place in college and ease their fears about who their new friends will be once they arrive.
- Academic success: With the ability to connect with others in their major, students can easily form future study or support groups. Ensuring students make progress toward graduation is invaluable.
- Sense of belonging: Instilling a sense of belonging from day one is essential for success and retention. When students can clearly picture what their experience will be like and feel a connection to their new college, even before they arrive, they’ll have a stronger sense of belonging.
With the ability for students to filter and search terms throughout the student book, the possibilities are endless for new students to make instant, yet meaningful connections.
The Benefits of Using Bright Crowd to Welcome Students
Understanding student motivations and compiling student data is a never-ending process. Empowering students to share what makes them unique helps administrators and professors better understand who their students are and what they need to succeed. BrightCrowd is NOT a social network that feels like a popularity contest filled with likes, feeds, and comments. It’s a private, intimate space where students can share their real and whole selves.
And for those wondering whether students will be willing to participate, take it from just a few of the schools already using BrightCrowd to welcome new students:
- MIT’s Class of 2025 BrightCrowd book has over 1,000 pages with 89% participation
- The William and Mary Law School also received 89% participation in their incoming law students book
- U Penn’s Class of 2025 book reached 700 pages and 30% participation within a month of launching
When it comes to meaningful engagement, BrightCrowd books also have special features that make all the difference. A student favorite is the name pronunciation option. For students who’ve struggled with teachers getting their names wrong for years, hearing a professor call them by the correct name from day one really makes them feel like they belong.
Launch Your BrightCrowd Welcome Book Today
It’s never too late to start a BrightCrowd book to welcome your incoming classes of undergraduate or graduate students. Books can be up and running in as little as one day with minimal effort by university staff (a benefit essential for teams who are already overwhelmed by limited time and resources). The BrightCrowd team provides customized consultation along the way to ensure universities and students alike get the most out of these books.
Are you ready to implement a student engagement strategy that’s more relational than transactional? Get in touch with our BrightCrowd team for a demo. We’ll share real-time data and stories that show how your school can effectively welcome new students to campus this fall.