Tips for Connecting with Students Throughout Their Higher Ed Journey

Written by Andrew Petersen on July 18, 2018

Posted in Education

The expectations of students and parents for the college experience are often sky high.

Rising costs for tuition, room, and board fuel a growing list of required amenities and services. Satisfying these desires leads to increased spending, which further increases costs for families. That cycle goes on and on.

Few institutions have the staffing resources to meet this continuously booming level of customer service demands. And while new buildings or career services departments might be multi-million-dollar investments, many improvements in connecting with students and families require far smaller financial investments that can yield transformative results.

Students—like most everyone else—want quick, hassle-free communication and mobile-friendly online experiences. Here are some suggestions for how to provide precisely that, while also creating points of student engagement that lead to lasting connections.

Student Admissions

Your Office of Admissions is already set up to roll out the red carpet for prospective students. But even the best admissions staffs could benefit from a lift on the technical end.

Social media is a natural connection point for prospects to learn about your school. That’s not to say it’s not a place for you to learn from them.

Surveys seeking preferences on various aspects of campus life can serve counselors well. Utilize the built-in functionality of Facebook tab embed surveys, as well as polls in Instagram stories.

All schools would be well served to perform annual audits of their campus visit signup forms. Strip the number of fields down to the absolute minimum you need to provide a quality experience.

As data collects, be sure to route it to the necessary systems and people. Connect directly to a CRM and/or SIS and skip manual entry (student workers can do so much more!). Then send notifications to assigned counselors and even faculty partners in relevant departments.

Current Students

Following a student’s enrollment, the Office of Admissions doesn’t do the hand-holding, but ongoing guidance continues to gain popularity in the name of retention.

Regular communication with students is a significant step in building a sense of belonging. Much of that occurs in classrooms and residence halls, but even electronic communication affects student engagement.

Surveys and web forms are ubiquitous with the student experience, but they don’t have to be monotonous. Here are some tips that apply to everything from scholarship applications to tutoring signups to course evaluations:

  • Ask the right questions: only those you truly need and phrased in a neutral way
  • Keep open-ended questions to a minimum
  • Include clear instructions

Alumni Relations

Some graduates will always be loyal fans of everything a school does, serving as lifelong cheerleaders.

Others need to be coaxed into remaining connected to their alma mater, and that can’t always be by way of receiving donation solicitations from students in call centers.

Alumni need to feel a connection to develop a lasting relationship with an institution.

This is much the same as with prospective students, and social media is equally vital. Schools can prime the pump for future donors while entertaining alumni.

Questions seeking graduate feedback and opinions on LinkedIn and Facebook are ideal steps toward getting someone back for homecoming or to the website to share a class note for the alumni magazine.

One idea is to incentivize alumni activities, such as updating contact information or attending an event, with contests. A piece of school swag goes a long way.

Whatever a school’s approach, well-considered, meaningful student engagement efforts can form a foundation for sustained connections throughout a student’s journey.

For more information about refining data communication efforts in higher education, click below watch our webinar, Building Seamless Engagement from Admissions to Alumni Relations.