In the two years that I worked as a Resident Assistant for Salisbury University, I had the pleasure of participating in four New Student Orientation weekends—events thought by most to be exciting since Freshmen and Transfer students begin a new, life-changing phase of their lives.
Yet out of those four orientation weekends, I had three cases where I had to talk a new student out of quitting school! These students were so emotionally overwhelmed once their families left, so consumed by the fear of not knowing anyone or how to interact with a new crowd, that they actually contemplated dropping out of school before they even attended their first class.
In each case, I explained all of the various student groups that existed on-campus, and how there is “always something for everybody.” I also spent the majority of those weekends (and several weeks to follow) taking those students under my wing, helping them with introductions, navigating them around campus, and keeping them positive. And thankfully, much to my delight, all three students chose to stay in school and eventually graduated or are still happily pursuing their degrees.
So, other than hiring folks like me as RAs, what could the school have done differently to prevent these near dropouts? Can colleges and universities adopt a better system for helping these new students feel more engaged during orientation weekend?
Thankfully, there’s Localist, our social calendaring and events platform. I’m relatively new to Localist, but I can tell you as a former RA, our platform can do a lot of the same work as a good Residential Life Staff member. Here’s how:
1. RA duty: Suggest events that might be popular around campus.
Localist feature: Students can see, in real-time, which events are “trending,” and check out the attendee list to find out who’s actually going.
2. RA duty: Tell students about student groups and the ever-popular Student Activities Fair.
Localist feature: Student group profile pages allow new students to request membership and join groups prior to the start of the semester and the activities fair.
3. RA duty: Help students navigate around campus.
Localist feature: Students can see an interactive Google map with every event listing, as well as check out venue/ building profile pages for the major buildings on and around campus.
4. RA duty: Help students start their own events, such as a flag football game in the Quad.
Localist feature: Students can create their own Localist events which, once approved, are published to the main school calendar. Once published on Localist, it’s easy for students to invite friends to these events and publish events to social media like Twitter and Facebook.
5. RA duty: Help students stay organized and get where they need to be, when they need to be there.
Localist feature: Students can see all of the events for Orientation in one single location. Then, they can sync events they’re required to attend to their personal calendars, with alerts and notifications.
Adopting Localist as your calendaring and events platform is just one way that you can help new students feel more comfortable and engaged during the all-important Orientation week (or weekend). And if that meant retaining just one student, wouldn’t that be worth it?
For more on how your online calendar can grow your community, check out our eBook, “Why Your Online Calendar Should Be Social.”