Admissions marketing needs to promote retention initiatives early and often. And, that’s true for initiatives that support students’ overall well-being, not just academic success. A trifecta of recent surveys got me thinking about this.
Students thinking about withdrawal. The College Confidence Index from Allianz surveyed current and prospective college students. More than half of prospective students (55 percent) are already wondering if they’ll need to temporarily withdraw once in college. Meanwhile, 43 percent of current students say that they’ve thought about withdrawing. Why? Family emergency (69 percent), stress (66 percent) or mental health condition (66 percent) were the top reasons.
Existing retention initiatives on campus. Inside Higher Ed conducted its annual survey of chief business officers. Most respondents’ institutions have invested in retention initiatives. Of those who’ve invested, 86 percent did so with “the clear expectation that higher student retention and degree completion would improve financial stability.” The types of initiatives cited were primarily academic: clearly designed pathways for degrees (83 percent), academic coaching (78 percent), training for faculty (74 percent), peer mentoring (66 percent) and technology-enabled advising (58 percent).
Participation in high school support services. YouthTruth surveyed high school students on college readiness. Fewer than 1/3 of students used counseling services focused on career possibilities, admissions requirements or applying for college. Only 19 percent accessed counseling on how to pay for college. Of the students who did access these services, however, more than 60 percent found them helpful.
Putting all of these things together reinforced the value of student support and retention initiatives and the importance of discussing them in admissions outreach. Here are my key takeaways.
- Many prospective students are anxious about going to college, and they need to understand what support they’ll find on campus long before move-in day.
- Retention initiatives focused on academics will always be vital, but offering a broader scope of quality of life/wellbeing services is increasingly important.
- There may be untapped opportunities to engage high school students and address some of their anxieties in advance. Before counseling on the nuts and bolts of getting into college, some students may need help understanding what the college experience will be like, as well as how they can make it work – logistically, financially and emotionally. Especially first-generation or underrepresented students. That’s a tall order, given today’s financial challenges. However, to build a more confident, secure enrollment pipeline, it may be a worthy investment for targeted feeder high schools or in a partnership with other institutions and/or nonprofits.