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Want a proven way to engage Gen Z? The magic is in belonging

students sitting on the grass studying

The needs of your future students have changed. For them, it’s less about university rankings and more about feeling a sense of purpose and belongingeven before their first day at your institution.

Starting university has always been nerve-wracking. It’s a time of change and excitement, but it’s also a time of uncertainty and vulnerability. Students want to make friends and take comfort in their peers in the lead-up to their studies to ease their restless minds as they await the adventure ahead of them. 

Community-building gives them the opportunity to do that.

Communities are the backbone of our society. We gravitate toward people with shared backgrounds and interests because it makes us feel like we’re a part of something greater. It makes us feel understood and cared for.

For marginalized groups in particular, community provides a support network to bring together those with similar life experiences and even empowers members to advocate for themselves and others. Not only that, but it makes them feel less alone in the face of adversity.

According to research published by the higher education policy group Wonkhe, “More than one in six students say they have no ‘true friends’ among their peers.” The survey raised concerns about mental health at universities and highlighted loneliness amongst students.

“Nearly a third of students feel lonely on a weekly basis, while 15.8 percent feel that way every single day of term time,” they also reported.

So far, Gen Z has utilized gaming platforms and social media to close this gap. From League of Legends to Twitter to forums like Reddit—they’ve always sought out digital mediums to make connections with people like them. These online interactions became especially important during the pandemic, and they’ve had significant staying power.

Introducing Unibuddy Community

That’s why we built Unibuddy Community. We wanted to offer students a comparable but more secure space that’s actually built for higher ed to allow them to connect while giving universities visibility into those conversations.

We understand that keeping students engaged throughout the student journey, from discovery to acceptance and through to graduation, is no easy feat. So we’ve built a platform to support higher ed professionals to do just that. We also did it because it aligns with our ethos that no student should have to make life’s crucial decisions alone and, of course, because our customers asked us to.

More than 250 institutions using Unibuddy expressed the need for a product like Community in 2021, so we got to work and made it happen. Unibuddy Community allows you to provide a safe space for students to interact with each other, get the answers they can’t get anywhere else, and feel like they’re already part of your institution’s community before they set foot on campus.

Former Indiana University Bloomington Associate Director of International Admissions Seth Walker said, “Unibuddy responded to our request for a product that would allow us to unite all of our students through a new medium in a way that encourages a sense of belonging at the right moment in their journey.”

How does it work?

Unibuddy Community is a group messaging platform. Admins create a community, set up groups, and invite students, ambassadors, and staff to take part—all from their Unibuddy university dashboard. This bird’s eye view provides administrators with insights into the student cohort as they interact with one another and create new groups or whole new communities. 

Students can also self-select into groups based on their backgrounds, interests, or affinities, or they can get group recommendations based on topics that interest them. Coming soon, we will be enabling students to create private groups as well as private-message each other.

Unlike similar platforms, Unibuddy Community provides an official and safe space for prospective and incoming students to connect with your student ambassadors and with each other without feeling monitored, restricted, or forced to use their personal social media details.

How do you benefit?

You can use Unibuddy Community to: 

  • Build multiple communities for prospective students, student ambassadors, faculty, and staff
  • Create groups within communities to answer topic-specific FAQs or even groups based on shared backgrounds (e.g., Indigenous students, athletes, Mandarin-speaking students)
  • Let students re-engage one another during hard-to-reach months 
  • Provide an official, safeguarded, and inclusive environment for students to feel a part of something greater than themselves before coming to university

Harriet Morris – Unibuddy Community Product Manager 

“We’ve continued to hear that students have a very real desire to learn whether or not they’ll fit in at an institution and feel a sense of belonging. It underpins the work that we do at Unibuddy, and it’s at the core of our Community product.

Our goal was to build something that would ease student anxiety and concerns by connecting them with like-minded people and giving them a real sense of what life at an institution is really like. As institutions, we wanted to find a way for them to showcase their unique culture to students before they join—in the most authentic way possible. 

Research continues to show that social media sites and similar digital spaces aren’t fulfilling student needs. That’s why I’m personally so excited by the future of the Unibuddy Community product and what we have in store for students and our partners.”

To learn more about how Unibuddy Community can help you achieve your recruitment and retention goals, book a demo.

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