29 January 2021
Virtual events: foster a sense of belonging from afar

We’re all motivated by belongingness. Consciously or unconsciously, we’re drawn to places and people that make us feel like we’re a part of something greater than ourselves.

A growing body of research supports the idea that a ‘sense of belonging’ is essential to student success and overall well-being. So creating an opportunity for prospects to feel like they belong at your university must be a priority; even before they arrive on campus.

This is a tough sell–you may think–nothing compares to the immersive experience of visiting your school in-person!

Conveying the culture of acceptance at a university through a computer screen is a real challenge, as admissions departments have been forced to realize. But I’m here to tell you that virtual events aren’t just a COVID-solution.

Meet students where they’re at – literally

Pandemic aside, some of your prospects will never be able to visit campus because it just doesn’t work for them. Surely that doesn’t mean that your university isn’t their perfect fit, though.

Bentley University drew more international and out-of-state students than they’d ever had at an admitted students event when they went virtual. 63% of their admitted students that used Unibuddy then went on to enroll.

Virtual events come without travel costs, which means that schools can also extend their reach to lower-income students. This is the demographic with the least resources and the greatest need for better access to information about your school.

Supporting first-generation students needs to be proactive, and it has to work with the objective of leveling the playing field. If you’re not going the extra mile to meet their needs now, how can they expect to be treated at your university?

A more personalized approach

Going digital gives universities the ability to curate a personalized experience. Large-scale visit days are a full solution, no doubt. But students may feel bombarded by information that doesn’t apply to them on an individual level.

Rather than attending a traditional tour and info-session structured visit, virtual events enable students to sign up for any singular event that they want to go to. Prospects will feel like their interests are accounted for, and their time is valued.

Chapman University jumped on this opportunity by creating standalone events like casual Q&As to spur organic, authentic connections for students. They didn’t see the campus in person, but they were able to learn specifically what they wanted to know about it.

Unibuddy Live virtual events

Peer mentoring and staff care and support have a direct, positive relationship with belonging according to a 2017 study from the University of Southern California’s Center for Education, Identity, and Social Justice. Unibuddy Live is the virtual means to this end.

There are some boxes that your standard video chat programs won’t tick, but this one was tailor-made for colleges and universities.

Chat is a natural communication tool for Gen Z, and a key tenet of human interaction in their worlds. Because Unibuddy Live is optimized for side-by-side chat and video, their messages are front and center, and less likely to be ignored.

Your prospects can chat with each other, with moderators, and with you, all while you broadcast. They aren’t required to be on camera themselves, which puts them at ease and opens them up to ask away.

Best of all, Unibuddy Live facilitates long-term connections, even after an event. Student ambassadors and staff can make themselves accessible to attendees so that they can keep the dialogue going when the stream ends.

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