07 January 2020

Student success and the role of belonging

Student success has been important to me for a long time. My path to college, like many students, was fraught with more questions than answers. As a graduate from a large 4,000 student public high school in Brooklyn, New York I had a few items on my so-called “collegiate wish list”.

I wanted a small community in stark contrast to my high school experience, strong academic programs, and the opportunity to play collegiate basketball. But perhaps, more importantly, I wanted a community where I would be both challenged and embraced.

I ultimately made the decision to attend Alfred University and my four years there propelled me into a career in Higher Education and Student Affairs working in areas from residential education, campus recreation, and student engagement.

Student success on campus has always been the most important part of my work.

How do we boost student success?

The answer is undoubtedly complicated, but I think it is fair to say a foundational sense of belonging is integral to student success.

I began my career in student affairs to design experiences and resources that would foster belonging on campuses. As a Residence Coordinator, I worked collaboratively with RA’s to create community-building programs. This provided a way to bring the hall together. As a staff member in student activities, I led small group camping trips with students from all areas of the university.

Facilitating the opportunity for students to gather, spend time with their peers, and connect is an important part of university life; even before a student steps on your campus.

How do we foster a sense of belonging?

Here are some of the approaches I took to creating belonging among students:

Arm the students with an abundance of critical resources

Provide students with ample information prior to their arrival on campus. This will go a long way to making sure their first days on campus are engaging and welcoming. If you are curious about what types of questions students ask, check out our white paper where we break down prospects most pressing questions.

Make the connection

Once a student enrolls they are met with numerous opportunities to connect with their peers, asking questions about majors or for example, how to survive a cold Midwest winter. Prospective students want connections with their future peers as well. Provide a space for your prospective students to connect with current students through Ambassador programs at your university.

Be Authentic

Prospective students want to know as much as possible about what it is like to be a student on your campus. They are envisioning themselves as a member of your community for the next few years. Make sure your message to prospects is full of authenticity. Do you have a goofy Mascot that all the students love? A unique study abroad opportunity? Be honest about your campuses quirks and its challenges. Prospects will be able to spot the difference!

A sense of belonging is an integral part of the college experience. Current students are vital to contributing to that. Students across the globe report increased feelings of belonging and confidence in their decision making after using the Unibuddy platform.

After learning about Unibuddy my initial thoughts were “Wow, I wish I had this when I was applying to colleges!”.

The ability to speak directly to a current student, maybe in my major or from the same hometown or with similar interests would have certainly been valuable throughout my college process.

Unibuddy provides the space for students to connect and ask questions to the folks they want to hear from most; current students. Students are looking to their peers for guidance. We at Unibuddy hope to be right alongside them helping them succeed.


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