Institutions of higher learning face many challenges getting students in the door, keeping them engaged and supported along their academic path, and setting them up for success after graduation. Today’s prospects and students demand consistent, dynamic communication, in-depth engagement and alignment with their instructors and peers, always-on accessibility to campus services, and most importantly, a sense of community that endures past graduation and into their professional lives.
How can your school address these concerns and ensure that your students are engaged, fulfilled, and fully involved in a powerful network on campus and beyond? Let’s dive into the essential areas schools need to focus on to ensure they meet students’ most vital needs.
Recruiting Requires Reinvention
It’s not a secret: traditional recruiting methods fall well short of engaging students quickly and effectively. The numbers bear this out: more than 660,000 fewer students enrolled in undergraduate programs this spring than the same period in 2021.1
Contributing to this enrollment decline is the fact that the traditional recruiting process is seen as “old school” (pun very much intended) by recruits and few colleges have evolved it to match the expectations of today’s prospective students.
The current recruiting process is slow, scattershot, and intrusive to prospects. Recruits don’t like giving out their phone numbers and email addresses only to be spammed by impersonal texts and emails they won’t read or respond to. Today’s recruits need the right kind of communication, which doesn’t include the typical paper sign-up form and lethargic, one-size-fits-all outreach.
From the first touchpoint with a school, a recruit should feel engaged with the institution on their own terms, and feel like they’ve been instantly connected with a group of like-minded prospective students. They need always-available recruiters from whom they can request information and attend virtual Q&A sessions, as well as connections to other recruits to ask questions and organize group campus visits.
The importance of these initial connections makes all the difference in the world between matriculation and loss of interest, according to Jared Stein, VP of Higher Education Strategy for Instructure. “Every student matters, and now more than ever, every enrollment matters,” says Jared. “Early communication and connection are key to early engagement, enrollment — and long-term persistence. Every student should feel like they matter and belong.”
Cultivate Connected Communities
Once students have successfully matriculated, schools need to immediately immerse them in a dynamic environment that instills a sense of community and always-available assistance. Schools have also spent millions on student support services, but fail to ensure their students can effectively connect to those services. Across the board, students need to feel like the campus comes to them, wherever they are.
Unfortunately, there are too many classrooms that lack this remote learning-friendly culture, and instead foster disconnects between students and faculty and between students and their peers. As mentioned, many institutions have also invested enormous sums in creating vital support services such as mental health resources, financial aid, veterans associations, clubs, and more, only to discover that students are unaware of or unable to access them.
Schools can address these issues by accepting the fact that student learning and support should no longer be confined to certain hours or campus buildings. Instead, schools need to lean into online learning options and create course groups to encourage one-on-one video office hours with faculty, lectures delivered via video conferencing, chat capabilities for students to share information with their peers, and digital, customizable announcement technology that is far more effective than email blasts.
Students also need to be provided with an “anytime, anywhere” ability to message their counselors about their class schedule, meet with mental health professionals via video chat, receive notifications from the financial aid department, get campus-wide announcements, and communicate with the clubs and associations they belong to.
"Expectations have changed,” says Jared. “Many of today’s students are non-traditional—they have families or jobs, and they need greater flexibility. Even if they are not traditionally on-campus, they still need to feel fully involved. They still need full access to school services, mentors, professors, and their peers. A hybrid campus experience is a need /and/ an expectation for today’s students.”
Networking is a Necessity
Clearly, connection is everything for student success. Students want and need to build networks that not only help their path to graduation, but will support them on into their careers. The power of being part of a connected community goes far beyond a diploma in your hand and the final echoes of “Pomp & Circumstance.” In fact, the number one superpower students have to launch their careers is the community they build during their education.
Simply feeling connected to others in the community can help students stay engaged and on-track,” says Jared. “And since the majority of students go to college to launch their careers, the power of personal networks is even more important — and increasingly so as students move toward graduation”
It’s true: the best-connected students are the best-prepared graduates as they enter the workforce.2 By helping your students build their networks during their educational journey, you’re setting them up for quicker and easier entry into the workforce and lasting career success.
For many students, a strong network just doesn’t happen organically, however. By providing the right tools and capabilities on your students’ mobile devices from matriculation through graduation, you can give them a springboard into their next chapter and also create active and generous alumni for life.
Pronto Sets Students Up for Success
In summary, you need to support and engage students throughout their journey while cultivating connection and community. The key to accomplishing that is Pronto.
Pronto is the only mobile-first communications app that revitalizes recruiting, converts campuses into communities, and connects your entire school through graduation and beyond. It lets prospects instantly connect with peers and your recruiters, and facilitates recruiter-hosted webinars, campus visit planning, and direct, digital dialogue with recruiters that leads to higher matriculation rates.
In addition, Pronto automatically syncs with your LMS to create groups for each class—connecting students with their peers and professors via text chat, video chat, and announcements, ensuring that they enjoy a stronger relationship with their teachers and other students.
Finally, Pronto directly integrates with your campus SIS, giving you deep insights into your students that you can use to help them navigate to groups, clubs, career paths, and networks that will elevate not just their college experience, but their future. Right from their mobile device, your students can message their counselors about their class schedule, meet with mental health professionals via video chat, receive notifications from the financial aid department, get campus-wide announcements you send out, or communicate with the clubs and associations they belong to.
The communities and networks built by Pronto endure through students’ entire campus journey and beyond, equipping them for easier transition into their post-graduate lives. Get your free Pronto demo to learn more about how to set your students up for success in every step of their academic journey and on into their career.
Pronto: it’s elevation for education!
1“College Enrollment Declines are Here to Stay.” U. S. News website. www.usnews.com/news/education-news/articles/2022-05-26/college-enrollment-declines-are-here-to-stay
2“8 Benefits of Networking for Students.” Oxford Summer Courses website. https://oxfordsummercourses.com/articles/benefits-of-networking-for-students/