Do you feel that your college or university is stuck in a rut when it comes to your college orientation programs? Are you worried your freshmen are missing out on an improved orientation experience because your institution does the same thing year after year? If this is you, you’re probably feeling like a hamster on a wheel!
Institutions are increasingly looking to improve their college orientation
Dramatic changes in students’ needs and wants are driving schools to think twice about their college orientation and its subsequent activities. Moreover, more colleges and universities are looking for unique, fresh, and exciting new offerings for their college shindigs. And increasingly, they are also looking for a way to measure the success of the orientation and gather valuable data about their incoming students so that they can better know and serve their student body on the road to graduation, keeping tuition dollars ON campus.
So in that spirit, we’ve compiled for you a few “out of the box” ideas that you can implement in your upcoming college orientation. They are:
- Pre-event: lengthen it!
- During event: create unusual, memorable experiences
- Post-event: use technology to study data and action it
#1 – Pre-event: lengthen the duration of your college orientation
Research is telling us that institutions who have an extended college orientation have seen as much as a 30% increase in first to second year retention versus students who did not participate. So rather than merely offering a Weekend of Welcome, why not extend the orientation throughout the following week, with new and different types of activities that further bond the students with your school and other upcoming classmates?
For example, at Columbia University, they offer a 4-day camping trip right after college orientation with other students, pairing new students with current students. During this camping trip, they do such activities as biking, hiking, and river canoeing. This is a great example of a lengthened orientation that includes exciting opportunities that give the incoming students an exciting, bonding experience.
#2 – During event: give your incoming students “chill bump”-inducing unique experiences
Showcase your institution in the best way possible during college orientation by giving freshmen experiences that excite, delight, and endear them to your college or university:
- A school who is killing it with “chill bump”-inducing experiences, the University of South Carolina, college orientation takes a “school pride” approach very seriously. At USC, college football plays an exciting role in a student’s experience. They take their incoming students to Williams-Brice Stadium where the Gamecocks play football, and the students get to run out on the field through the players’ smoke tunnel, feeling the same rush the football players do on game day. They follow this up with organizers leading them through rounding renditions of their school’s fight song, the alma mater, and game day chants. Finally, they end the session by watching bursting evening fireworks, refreshments, and encouraging mingling with fellow freshmen.
- In another example, many of us know CalPoly has been ranked #1 in freshman orientation for many years. Why is that? Well, their Week of Welcome is largely run by Transition Committee Members, which represents one of the largest volunteer-led orientation staffs in the country. This committee boasts more than 900 student leaders devoting countless hours to leading new Mustangs through their first weeks on campus. CalPoly believes that their student-led WOW is the most important reason why they rank so well in college orientation. Existing students have recent experience with being a freshman and having gone through orientation. Therefore, they know better than faculty and staff what their freshman orientation was like – both good and bad – and they can play off that experience in a beneficial way to improve it.
#3 – Post-event: utilize technology to provide a personalized and data-driven college orientation experience
Why not customize the college orientation experience for each attendee by allowing them to use an interactive app that directs and guides their path through orientation? Ask them questions electronically throughout your WOW so that you can pair them with the right small groups during each event. Provide your WOW’s agenda through the app, and permit sponsors to display ads through the app for increased visibility with the students.
Event-planning software has become a hot new trend in college orientation. One of the reasons is because institutions today are not using data-driven event planning software to gather critical student data in order to properly mix their students during the WOW.
- In a recent study, incoming students say that felt constricted by their college orientation small groups and were unable to make an effort towards other students with similar interests, especially because the orientation groups were completely random.
- Increasingly institutions are searching for event planning software that provides the types of benefits we’ve talked about above. One such product is Mixtroz – a data-driven event planning software that customizes ice breakers and attendee questions, sets up intelligent connections with your attendees, integrates sponsor ads, and helps you delve into your own data dashboard to gain a deeper understanding of your attendees before, during, and after your event.
- Overall, if you are not planning NOW to improve your freshmen’s college orientation experience, you are being left behind. Consider getting a little more student volunteer advice. Research what other successful college orientations look like. Implement technology so that your freshman onboarding experience can more tightly bond your freshman to each other and to your institution.
We know that ensuring higher retention rates and reducing dreaded attrition are critical to your institution’s success, so we hope some of these examples inspire and guide you toward making your college orientation more unique, exciting, and relevant!
Mixtroz is an app-based tool that engages and improves events for attendees while collecting data for our event hosts – a 360-degree ROI. Users download the app, complete a virtual name tag and survey customized by the organizer. At a predetermined time, the app simultaneously matches attendees and guides them to an intelligently automated match of people for a curated group connection experience IN REAL TIME! At the completion of the “mix” the organizer gains the visualized survey data collected from the interactions which can be used to drive future marketing and programming decisions. Mixtroz can be up and running at your institution in no time at all. So, to get started working less and innovating more, visit Mixtroz at www.mixtroz.com, or contact us here.