It is the final day of New Student Orientation. The last student and their family member has driven away from campus, and the next time that we will see these students on campus is move-in day. The College community could easily breathe a sigh of relief that the orientation programs are over and move onto the details surrounding opening, but we can’t forget the 500 new students that we just met. At Dean College (MA) we have found that making things as personal as possible truly makes a difference. And, while a student may not check their email for a day…or two…or three, sending a message out to them within hours of a program’s completion shows that we are still thinking about them and care about what they thought of their experience.
Any orientation team will want to know how each student’s experience at orientation was, so it would only make sense to send out a survey as soon as possible. But what about embedding the survey within an email that thanks students for coming to orientation? An email that speaks to some of the things that they did during their day and a half on campus coupled with some fun photos that staff took at various sessions? Our “thank you” email is just one of the touch points that we have with new students once the orientation programs are over. Constant contact helps keep the students engaged with us until they arrive on campus in September.
Another way that Dean reaches out to the new students is through a letter from the Student Government Association (SGA) president. In this letter, the president speaks to the messages about involvement that were discussed at orientation, encourages them to run for a First Year Senator seat, and speaks to some of the important things that all students should be doing to prepare for their arrival on campus, like purchasing textbooks and talking to their roommate. The letter is not a typical letter. I work with the SGA president to make the letter look more like an advertisement as to be more attractive to the eye. Students received enough plain emails, so why not spice it up at bit!
I personally enjoy seeing a fun touch point that comes from our Advising Center. Each summer the staff takes a group photo and creates a postcard that gets mailed out to all students (both new and returning). It is just another way for us to say “hi” and “don’t forget about us”. For any new student who receives the postcard, it is also another way to remember their advisor’s face and enforce the importance of the advisor/advisee relationship.
My colleagues and I at Dean also rely heavily on the power of social media to keep students engaged throughout the whole year. Using online newsletter tools such as Smore.com, we have created campaigns that share our successes from the past year and highlight what we have planned for the fall. Changing the way that students receive their information is critical as everyone responds to information differently.
The one thing that I caution my peers on is to make sure that everyone across campus is on the same page in regards to messaging and frequency of reaching out to students. We have a campus committee that maintains a master list of all communications that get sent out to students, families and alumni on an annual basis. This list helps us to avoid overloading a student’s inbox.
To a certain extent, our touch points are not ground-breaking ideas, but they are carefully crafted and thought out in regards to the messaging, timing, and purpose. We have seen the success in our efforts and will continue to use these touch points and come up with new ways of reaching out to students post-orientation.