Student affairs and support professionals are on the front lines of providing today’s students with resources to succeed at learning. Burnout and mental health challenges are rampant in society, but college students have had a particularly tough time in the past three years. Many institutions are expanding and changing their support services to respond to pressing and ever-changing student needs. The environment for learning is central to attracting students to enroll in any institution, and student services are one of the prime ways to support learning. Effectively communicating your institution’s student affairs and services initiatives is integral to promoting your school to prospects.
Best Practices in Student Affairs
Student affairs have followed the pedagogical trend to become student-centered. The Center for Student Engagement at the University of Nevada, Reno, has developed a document to help guide improvements in student services in this environment, titled Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs. It points out seven basic ideas that researchers and practitioners have identified as essential elements of effective student services departments. Here are those principles:
- Provide active learning opportunities for students
- Model ethical and moral standards
- Set high expectations for learning
- Use regular assessments to improve student and institutional performance
- Apply resources effectively to meet institutional goals
- Foster structures for collaboration and partnership between all stakeholders
- Build a supportive, inclusive community
These points provide a framework for enrollment professionals to talk about the work of student services and how they provide a foundation for a solid learning community that prospective students will want to join. Students are rightly concerned with excellence in learning, and these factors can demonstrate the support for effective learning created within the context of your campus community. These broader theoretical ideas provide a comprehensive structure that supports student achievement.
Delivering Support Services
While the idea of a welcoming community with excellence in learning is appealing, many students will be more concerned about the specific support services that they can expect to access when they enroll in your institution. While the opportunity to be involved in campus activities may be valuable to traditional students, non-traditional, online, or night class students may have very different sets of concerns. Emphasizing the ability to personalize support to the needs of each student can be a way to address prospects’ specific concerns while still articulating an overall framework for supporting learning.
The first rule of support is availability. 24/7 availability for some types of assistance is vital, and a central concierge to direct student queries is ideal. Some students prefer chatbot support, while others prefer talking to a person. Chatbots can provide access during off-hours, but only if they can provide instant answers to less urgent queries and direct to emergency support as needed. It is crucial to have a range of methods to contact support, and articulating students’ access can help prospects feel that your institution is a safe place for learning.
Some campuses have experimented with dedicated support services for specific populations, such as transfer students, but that can result in students feeling siloed. While international, working, or military students may have unique concerns, putting them in a separate pathway for support can backfire. Provide specific supports for these populations is foundational yet incorporating these supports into a framework of an inclusive community is more beneficial in the long run.
Itemizing vs. Encompassing
While each student may be looking for a different set of supports, too many details may become information overload. If you merely list your support services, such as mental health, technology, finance, and tutoring, you may see students get lost in the details. When promoting the student service offerings of your school, offering a wrap-around description of the commitment to student learning and attention to individual needs may be the best approach. An exhausted prospective student body craves effective learning, the chance to participate in the community, and a sense of normalcy and advancement. After the stasis many experienced during the pandemic, where it seemed difficult to get anything accomplished, students want to hear how things are working to move people forward within your learning environment.
Utilizing a broad range of interaction strategies, including text messaging, chatbots, targeted emails and advertisements, plus allowing for the availability of easily searchable resources on your website combine to allow contact that answers the needs of a prospective student. Choice of an interface, whether to speak with someone on campus or over the phone, attend a virtual event, send an email, or interact with efficient website information, each prospect can become impressed by the idea of student-centered learning that your institution has likely already embraced.
A unified message of the student-centered nature of your institution’s student affairs department can bring together the many specific support offerings. One way to exemplify this in your enrollment efforts is by personalizing your marketing. Just as an enrolled student may want a central point to direct them toward a support service, a prospect can use the enrollment website and available staff to refer them to answers to their specific questions. Aligning recruitment strategies with principles of student affairs can make enrollment an outgrowth of the student affairs department and help smooth a prospect’s pathway to becoming a part of your academic community.
Contact us today to find out how we can help you level up your education marketing strategy.