3 Steps to Increase Student Retention During COVID-19
One third of students change or leave their colleges before they earn their degree. Why? They might be homesick, the school is too expensive or they just simply aren’t happy with the institution.The issue has been further aggravated since the onset of the COVID pandemic.
Many admissions professionals in higher education don’t look beyond their concern of enrolling enough students each year. However, given the current circumstances, it’s vital to know your students, empathize with them and hear them out. Did you know that the same inbound marketing techniques that brought students to your school can also help keep them there? Take a look at these three steps to kick-start your student engagement program that enables you to increase student retention.
Step 1: Conduct Market Research
What better way to find out what makes your current students happy than by asking them? Perform market research on your current students. Use the results as the driving force behind everything you do to engage your student body in an effort to increase your retention rate. Here are three examples of market research you could conduct:
- An end-of-the-year survey with freshmen about their first year
- An exit survey with seniors about their college experience
- Focus groups and surveys with students to determine their interests and needs
- Utilize your college’s social media pages to interact with students
Take the information gathered in these surveys and focus groups to help improve the experience your students have at your institution. You should also think about sending an “exit survey” to any students that end up transferring from your school to find out why they decided to leave your institution.
Once you’ve started to regularly conduct market research, use this information to ensure you are crafting content that engages and meets your students’ needs. You will also use this information to create your personas.
Step 2: Create Your Personas
Personas are semi-fictional representations of your target audience – in this case, you will have happy, engaged students who are currently at your institution. After you have created personas to help you attract your target students to apply, you will need to create personas that represent your current students, as well. You will probably have many different personas since your student body is made up of a variety of different people.
For example, you could create personas for each class (freshman, sophomore, etc.), school (engineering, business, etc.), or by interest (community service, Greek life, athletics, etc.). When creating your personas, do research on each group – what are their demographics, interests, pain points, and common questions? Your research will allow you to engage your students with relevant information.
Read more about how to create personas here.
Step 3: Use Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing is all about creating and sharing relevant, targeted content for a specific audience. You can use inbound marketing tactics such as blogging, email, premium content, and social media to reach and engage your current students. Your blog posts can include information about study tips, graduate school, and decorating dorms, basically, anything that would be useful for students at your college. You can segment your email list into different groups, such as freshmen, and create an email nurturing campaign that will guide them through their first year at your institution. Additionally, creating premium content geared towards your current students, such as a checklist on study tips or a short eBook about study abroad options and programs can help further engage them and offer them educational, helpful information. Finally, engage with your current students on social media. Monitor what they’re saying about you, asking you, and try to promptly respond to them. Promote your content, as well as content from other organizations that are specifically targeted towards your current students.
Updated: Sep 14, 2021