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Strategies to Facilitate Student Matriculation and Persistence

Some flights have rough landings. Pilots hit the runway hard. They slam the brakes, surprising passengers who jerk forward, barely managing to hang onto their cell phones. It’s an unpleasant way to end a trip. For first-time travelers, it also leaves a very negative impression.

During my time in student affairs, I noticed that the “rough landing” concept could also be applied to the first impression an institution made on first-time, full-time freshmen students.

Admissions devotes effort over an extended period to developing intentional relationships with potential students and their families. Or as we say at enrollmentFUEL, “People recruit people.” Admission offices generally have budgets for attractive marketing collateral that promises support and presents the campus as a place that is energetic, yet serene.

Then comes move-in day, and it can be crazy. In my last position, we welcomed the new class with only five student affair professionals. We were running the orientation, and fielding parent questions and concerns. There were always minor emergencies to contend with, like the time every single light mysteriously went out in a residence hall.

For some students, who are already feeling uncertain about a school, this can be a challenging day. While no school has the budget to provide a resort-style welcome, there are ways for admissions and student affairs to work together.

Consider these ideas:

  • Invite the student affairs team and the faculty to recruiting events. Encourage their involvement with specific tasks to foster interaction and relationship-building from the beginning. If a student feels connected to more people than their admissions counselor when they arrive on campus, they are more likely to stick around.
  • Partner with student affairs for orientation efforts. This responsibility can fall under either department, depending on the institution, but that does not prevent both from being present and visible. Orientation is a critical passing of the baton, and the moment freshmen go from being your students to their students.
  • Think about developing budget-friendly summer events to keep local students engaged. For instance, maybe you could do a Meet-Your-Roommate bonfire night or a commuter sand volleyball tournament. What about a picnic lunch in the quad? Or a group outing to a local sporting event?
  • Ask student affairs to include you in the roommate matching process. You know your students, and you can have insight on who may not get along. A bad roommate experience is a fast track to the “Mom, come get me, I can’t do this” phone call.
  • Work with your student affairs team to get all necessary paperwork and requirements – housing forms, vaccinations, parking permits, accommodation requests – out of the way during the summer. It is a reason to contact students every few weeks and stay connected. When students continue to walk through processes each week, it becomes easier to stay than it is to look for other options before school starts.

Before you know it, the next class will arrive at your school. By looking for ways to improve the handoff between enrollment and student affairs, you ensure a smoother flight and a softer landing. Prepare for take-off!

*A note of special thanks from Alison Walls to her former colleague, Mike Wilkinson, who worked with her to develop the "soft landing" concept at Mid-America Christian University.