Salesforce recently released the third edition of its Connected Student Report, which outlines what students say they want and need from a higher ed institution. To save you some time, I’m going to start with the conclusion: Prospective students are looking for a holistic experience and a sense of belonging. Also, they plan to be lifelong learners and they expect their school to care for their wellbeing.
“Only a third of students surveyed report having a great university experience,” according to the report, “indicating that institutions have room to improve. Specifically, how students feel about their overall experience starts as early as orientation. An increasing number of students and staff have greater expectations for wanting personalization, flexibility, and diversity in their education experience than ever before.”
The numbers did increase from last year. The 2021 report found only 24% of respondents having had a great experience compared to 34% in 2022. In the spirit of “knowing is half the battle,” I’ve placed the report results below:
This isn’t the first time I think any of us are hearing that a sense of “belonging” is increasingly important for our incoming classes. Within the article, it stated that Orientation is a crucial stage to solidify belonging to your incoming freshman.
Furthermore, cultivating that sense of belonging is important to continue throughout a student’s journey to graduation. Within orientation, or “onboarding” as they refer to it, they suggest introducing someone from departments such as Career Services and clubs/organizations at this time, so students are aware of resources and community.
“The survey results also indicate that the onboarding experience must go beyond explaining academic departments and other services and strive to connect students with each other,” according to the report. “Universities can host more events and opportunities for socialization during onboarding as students who felt disconnected from their institution predominantly reported wanting more of those activities.”
In the report, it was found that support to the student as a whole — educationally, socially and emotionally — throughout their education played a huge role in having a great experience. The report found: “Students no longer see their university as solely a place of knowledge. Rather, they see higher education institutions as holistic support systems.”
Students stated they are looking for more access to Career Services planning, resources for their well-being and help balancing their academic, work and personal lives. When reading this, I think, what are the resources you offer on campus and, additionally, how do students know about them or how to access them?
Prepared for Future Work
The survey found that nearly half (47%) of enrolling students said “future career prospects” were key in deciding what university they wanted to attend, making it the number one influencing factor. There is a disconnect, at times, between career services that universities provide and the services that students want, with the universities apparently overdelivering on some services.
Piggybacking on holistic support, the article was sprinkled with students wanting more to do with career services, making this a great department to highlight or introduce starting right at orientation.
Flexibility and Diversity
Students stated that online access to data and resources, a personalized experience tailored to their needs, and diversity were large factors when it came to having a great experience. Sixty-nine percent of students who had a great educational experience agreed with the statement that their institution “provides a personalized experience tailored to my needs.”
Students want an ability to tailor their learning with in-person, online and hybrid class options. They also stated they want and like the diversity of higher education and the ability to connect with individuals from all walks of life and different than their own. Flexibility of scheduling, offering in-person, online and hybrid options along with opportunities to meet new people, connect through activities and clubs are all great things to be offering and highlighting about your institution.
To conclude, knowing their resources and opportunities for scheduling and community continue to be important factors for our incoming students. If your institution offers all these key factors, the next question is how are you making your student body aware of them? Are they easily accessible? Orientation, dedicated space on your website and marketing content would be a great way to showcase these. If you and your team could use some fresh ideas to deploy on your campus, lean on us. We’ve got heads full!
By Cat Hollands, Client Trainer, Capture Higher Ed