student success

Welcoming New College Students: 3 Keys to a Strong Fall Start

Laura BrecknerConsultant, Student Success SolutionsJune 8, 2022

“What should institutions be preparing for as they welcome new students this fall?” That was the topic of our LinkedIn Live session featuring Lauren Garcia-Pastorek, Dean of Student Success and Persistence at Coe College, my RNL colleagues Brandi Phillips and Brian Gawor, and myself. During our conversation, we touched on three key strategies that can help institutions with welcoming new college students and helping those students start strong.

Watch our discussion on welcoming new students.

Know the needs and expectations of this unique cohort of students

As institutions prepare for this coming fall, it is clear this cohort of new students is much different than any other before due to their unique experiences. Brandi Phillips made a great point about the current state of students. “Our students are changing, they have been through so much,” she said. “What are the needs of this particular cohort that might be different than the cohort of past years?”

Not only did this group of students experience a quick shift to remote learning, many of them continued to have remote or hybrid educational experiences throughout their secondary education careers. This will certainly shape their needs and expectations in unique ways. More than ever before, it is critical to have a plan to understand each student’s individual needs as well as the needs for the whole cohort.

Meet their needs

Welcoming new college students on campus

Allocating your resources is a key part of meeting the needs of new students. Brandi recommends surveying those students early on so that you can have a plan in place to address their needs, and to make sure the resources you have actually align with your students’ needs. I also encourage the use of assessment tools to help institutions with limited resources. These tools help you identify targeted students who are saying that they want help. In addition, as a one-on-one advisor, they can provide insights about how you approach a conversation. You may see a need that a student has, but they might not quite be there yet to talk about that need. Their receptivity score (which the College Student Inventory provides) can shed light on how you approach these students compared to those who say they are receptive to receiving help in that area.

Encourage a sense of belonging and social engagement with new students as well. Many students are very thirsty for connection because of what we’ve experienced through the pandemic. And some are really hesitant about engaging publicly. Institutions must have a way to meet these individual needs. Lauren Garcia-Pastorek then noted, “We are focused a lot this year on the connection piece and helping students feel connected, not just to each other, but to the campus community and to resources.” Coe College is utilizing strategies with professional success coaches as well as student leaders starting in the summer, through orientation, and through a student’s first year. These strategies are focused on providing a high level of customer service and helping them to feel connected to institutional resources and their peers.

Continue re-recruiting new students

With the impending enrollment cliff and high rates of students stopping out, it is critical to focus on efforts to retain students and help them persist to their completion goals. “We’re here for student success so we should be putting resources to it for sure,” said Brian Gawor. Lauren expanded on this. “Spend the time getting to know not only what their goals are, but also how to help them get there.”

“For us [at Coe], it’s really about facilitating connections,” Lauren continued. “Helping students feel that connection back to campus, know that they are supported, and also then see themselves continuing here and know that they have the right resources, but also the future opportunities that exist for them outside of this first year, once they get through the transition.” She emphasized how important it is to make students feel welcome as well as willing to ask for help. “Helping them feel more comfortable navigating your campus experience and feeling confident in their ability to ask for help, now that they have support, and then they’ll want to keep coming back.”

How can you be ready to welcome new college students this fall?

Watch our video above to hear more about how to support your students well as you prepare for fall 2022, including utilizing the Retention Management System surveys, focusing on mental health resources, engaging parents, and working with peers to support new students. And if you would like to talk in more detail about how you can assess the needs of new students and build connections with them, please email me and I’d be happy to talk with you.

Understand the motivations and needs of your students

Assess the motivations of your students to complete college, identify challenges to their persistence, and gauge their receptivity for assistance with the Retention Management System Plus.

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About the Author

Laura Breckner works closely with colleges and universities to promote and support student retention and success.  In particular, Laura provides guidance and support in using the College Student Inventory ™, the Mid-Year Student Assessment™, and the Second-Year Student...

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