how to make your students feel valued
Students will be more engaged with you and the institution when you can foster a sense of belonging and show appreciation.

There’s a lot going on in the world impacting college students and young people. They may be feeling overwhelmed by life changes, uncertain about the future of in-person versus online classes, or bombarded by all the information thrown at them each day. They need consistent, authentic support from the institutions they attend and are involved with, especially their colleges and universities. 

Are you taking extra steps to ensure students feel valued and appreciated? Are you actively focused on how you can boost engagement and satisfy your audiences? Try these tactics to improve the ways you show you care.

Focus on fostering a sense of belonging

Research has shown that when students feel like they don’t belong, they’re more likely to become disconnected and disengaged. On the other hand, when they feel a strong sense of belonging, they’re more likely to be involved in school activities and be more engaged overall. 

It’s first important to think about the welcoming attitude you want to portray to students. Often, it’s all about the messaging you put out, the way staff and faculty interact with students, and the resources you make available to foster a stronger sense of belonging. 

But being successful also means you’re able to acknowledge all the things that get in the way of students feeling like they belong. Recognize the real challenges that exist for some students, and make sure you are normalizing those challenges. Otherwise, you could push people further away instead of helping them overcome their worries. 

Fostering belonging is not just pretending everything is fine all the time. Students have lots of stressors and insecurities, especially now. So, make sure you’re taking an empathetic, compassionate approach.

Every decision you make and initiative you begin should align with these goals and should never isolate any individuals or groups.

Gather more feedback

One tangible student engagement step is to implement methods for gathering feedback from students. Without hearing what they have to say — their wants, needs, and priorities — you won’t be able to support them in the ways necessary to nurture feelings of belonging and appreciation.

Send out surveys that dig into what students are feeling and what they want to see more of. Assess their reactions to new programs and initiatives. Pay attention to positive feedback, but especially to the negative emotions they may be indicating. How can you address these issues in particular? 

Remember that social media is also a valuable tool for gathering feedback from today’s students. You can instantly send out a poll or questionnaire to engage with people in a direct, fun format. This makes them feel like their voice matters, while it allows you to collect valuable information about how they’re thinking and feeling. 

Hold student appreciation events

Nothing says you value students more than, well, showing them that you value them. Take actionable steps like planning events focused solely on student appreciation. These could be free lunch or dinner days or sponsored mixers with games and speakers. Maybe you offer free swag if students stop by a set location on a given day. Involve students in planning and execution, so you can learn what they would find the most valuable and impactful.

Labeling a movie night or raffle event as a student appreciation event shows that you want to provide fun, engaging activities for them just because they exist and came to your school. Appreciation events are nice touches that allow students to interact with one another and with you while getting some kind of benefit in return.

Prioritize individuals with personalization

Feeling recognized is a big priority for modern students. They want to feel like the brands they support and the institutions they attend will meet their specific needs and desires; they don’t want to be seen as just another number or face in the crowd.

According to a study from Ellucian, three-quarters of students want institutions to use their personal information to create more personalized experiences and recommendations, just as brands would. Students want to see this customization happen the most in career preparation (29%), followed by finances (28%), academics (25%), and student life (18%).

Gathering data about student populations helps you deliver more personalized experiences and content, but so does having a clearly outlined audience persona. Make sure you can define exactly who your targets are before attempting to deliver them personalized information.

An example of a personalized content strategy would be to use student insights to offer each person recommendations for upcoming events or student groups that may match their interests. The same Ellucian study found that 45% of students say that customized event recommendations based on their interests and past activity would help institutions foster stronger connections with them. 

How KWALL helps you improve student engagement

Engaging and supporting students has never been more important. Showing students that you value and appreciate them will go a long way to ensuring continuous, meaningful engagement. 

KWALL helps colleges and universities like yours improve web experiences for students and audiences. We’ve helped more than 50 higher education institutions and launched over 200 education websites. We can help with web design and development, support, and research and discovery. These functions help you improve enrollment, student retention, and brand reputation.

Get in touch with KWALL today to have a site maintenance conversation or to ask about our web services for higher education. 


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