By Ethan Penland, Director of Admissions Services
2 minute read
Have you ever had the experience of being around new people and the feeling of worry sweeping over you that you may not find your place in the group? Or, when you’re in a new environment, do you sometimes struggle to blend in? In other words, have you ever felt like you may not belong?
This is a common occurrence for everyone, but we are recognizing that loneliness is setting in more and more with each generation. Nearly 80% of Generation Z report they feel lonely, and this is despite being able to connect to the entire world via technology.
Not being “emotionally and socially prepared” for college remains a top concern for incoming students in our own Tudor Collegiate Strategies surveys that we conduct with institutional partners.
In short, students today are struggling to find a sense of belonging, both before they get to college and when they begin as a new student.
Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you can see that the need for belonging, and love, comes after two basic human needs –physiological and safety. The need for belonging is rooted in our ability to live a fulfilling life, but yet, so many young people feel that it is absent in their life experiences.
So what can admissions and recruitment teams do about this? As you’re recruiting students, especially those that you’re hoping will be making a decision soon, you need to create a sense of belonging for each student. But how, do you ask? Through three steps.
Attention – To put it simply, you have to be intentional in your communications. Personalization and segmentation will always be the most useful practices when it comes to expressing attention to students. Acknowledge who they are, value their interest, and draw attention to actions they have or have not taken. Show students that you are paying attention. The importance of this is simple–you are giving students recognition and taking notice of who they are. The more you do this, the more a student takes more notice of you.
Acceptance – In the literal sense, you have already provided “acceptance” to students who have been admitted to your institution. However, the real meaning of acceptance in order to create belonging is to accept students into the conversation. In other words, cut out transactional communications–messages that are one-sided in communication–and make your outreach conversational. Students want to know you are approachable, but they will not be the ones to act first. They are much more likely to remain silent unless you give them the “permission” to join in the conversation.
Support – The sense of belonging you are trying to create for students cannot be granted if you only offer them attention and acceptance. Yes, you can show them that you are approachable, and you can show them you are noticing them, but belonging is maximized by your ability and willingness to support them and their individual needs. Much like using intentionality in giving attention, you need to be intentional about your support. The key is to collect information and context from your students as to what they need, and in return, supply them with not only what meets their needs but also support with context as to why and how.
As simple as these steps may seem, so many institutions fall short of providing students with the attention, acceptance, and support they need to feel that they belong at their institution. Remember, your actions reflect what students should expect if they choose your institution. The better you do at steps, the more students will feel that they can have the experience of belonging at your institution.
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