The school year is starting, and the much anticipated “Class of 2016” have been recruited and are off having a successful first quarter or semester.
While admissions departments are ready to pack their travel suitcases and start looking onto next year’s crop of students, some folks are still sitting uneasy. I recently spoke with a Director of Transfer Admissions who expressed her concern in watching the school’s large group of transfer students integrate into their small, tight-knit campus.
“While my job is done on the admissions side in answering their questions and getting them to campus, I wish there were more resources to help the students feel a sense of community like we have with our class of 2016.”
Like many campuses, her school created a private “Class of 2016” Facebook group as a hub for prospective and newly admitted students to get to know each other before they arrived on campus. Of their close to 1,000 new admits, many had already exchanged “likes” and friend requests, and will easily recognize each other at orientation by their Facebook profile pictures.
Are Transfer Students Left Out?
By contrast, the school’s transfer population had only met with the Director of Transfer Admissions, and weren’t part of the school’s online community. Although they have a transfer orientation and a dedicated resource center on campus, they still face a sea of unfamiliar faces on their first day of classes.
As a transfer student you’re often stepping into college with people that already know each other. How do you fit in? How do you find people like you? When there’s already a campus community, having additional resources can make or break your incoming experience.
For this reason, we’d like to share a few ideas on how to successfully integrate large transfer student populations. While a “Class of 20XX” Facebook Page may a great resource for one type of students, here’s how some of our clients are welcoming their transfer populations with their Schools App private Facebook community.
1. Give Transfer Students First Priority
Within the Schools App or a “Class of 2016 private Facebook Group” a moderator decides when students’ emails are validated to enter the private community. We’ve had clients welcome the transfer students into an online community for the first three to four weeks after admissions decisions are released, and allow a time for them to integrate before the traditional incoming class.
2. Encourage Transfer Communities
While the previous tactic might not work for all schools, we also recommend institutions create specific communities (or sub-communities) specifically for “transfer” students. In the Schools App, we allow students to identify themselves as transfer students and give them their own community to post conversations, make friends and ask questions related to campus. We also encourage institutions to provide a current student ambassador who was also a transfer student to specifically connect with this populations’ unique needs.
3. Create Transfer Meet-ups or Events
Highlight on-campus events by adding transfer student-specific events in the “meet-ups” tab in the app, or the “events” section of your Facebook group. While many of you have specific events on campus for transfer students, be sure to supplement those meetings with online event invitations and post-event online communities.
In conclusion, improving social connections on campus has proven to help with important student outcomes such as yield and retention. While there are a variety of ways to build online communities, many of the “generic social media platforms” don’t create meaningful and measurable connections between a student and a particular institution.
For example, by measuring online engagement with our Schools App product our clients have found transfer students are twice as likely to enroll if they join their universitiy’s private social network.
Have you been using online communities to welcome transfer students? Share your successes or problems below!