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3 Initiatives That Nurture Student Success and Unlock Higher Enrollments

Updated on February 8, 2023Educational Institutions

Heading into a new year, higher education institutions face a growing sense of urgency around college admissions. Application rates are up for many schools, but they come with matching low acceptance rates that often mean students aren’t making it to registration day — and overall enrollments continue to fall.

Significant obstacles stand between institutions and high enrollments, including increasing competition for students, shifting demographics in the student body, and changing expectations around career preparation and skills development. But what most institutions might not realize is that all of these obstacles share a common thread: how a student experiences success at your institution. 

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When higher education is increasingly questioned and at risk of commodification, focusing on student success and experience could be the connection that drives enrollment and retention. A student who is confident they’ll get the education they want with the support, student culture, and career preparation they need won’t hesitate to decide on college attendance — or to enroll in your institution. 

Here are three critical ways institutions can raise the bar on student success and experience to drive higher enrollment and retention.

1  Offer targeted support through student resources

When instructional staff and course materials moved online, some institutions created computer labs and even distributed laptops to help students adapt and adjust. That kind of attentive and responsive support sets high-quality educational institutions apart and ensures that students who join your institution have access to the resources they need to succeed. 

Today, student needs are changing as significantly as the jump from analog to digital. But institutions aren’t always ahead of the trend to equip students with the support they need.

Just consider the topic of student mental health. According to Deloitte, one in three students reported a mental health disorder in 2020, and rates of major depression on campus doubled between 2009 and 2019 (from 8 percent to 18 percent). Institutions need to consider programs and services to help students manage feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, and stress and help them effectively communicate their needs so these feelings don’t become a barrier as they pursue their education.

Of course, mental health isn’t the only area in which students can use support. Institutions are increasingly offering resources in areas such as childcare and online tutoring. If your focus is on enrollment and retention, it’s time to make sure you’re proactively assessing the needs of current and prospective students and identifying resources that can help support them.

2  Invest in building an intentional student culture 

One reason the higher education experience is at risk of being commoditized is that various sources of knowledge are available to potential students today — whether organized in a Massive Open Online Course, pieced together through digital course creators and programs, or dispersed across different websites and apps. Institutions that want to differentiate themselves must go deeper than surface-level knowledge and emphasize the benefits of an institutional student experience that takes place in a community with others.

Cultivating a shared identity and culture that’s deeply rooted in your institution’s mission and values is a powerful way to build connections and relationships between your institution and prospective and enrolled students — but it must be done intentionally. If you don’t have an intentional student culture and aren’t investing in it regularly, your institution is missing out on creating the deepest possible connections among students, instructors, and administrators. 

There’s no “quick fix” for creating an intentional student culture, but there are simple yet meaningful strategies you can implement to make it easier for students to understand and integrate into your existing culture. For example, consider how you can support better communication between students, faculty, and the administration with communication tools. On-demand, digital-first tools such as Grammarly help students of all backgrounds access the real-time writing feedback they need to feel more comfortable expressing themselves through writing. Grammarly also offers a style guide feature that allows you to set up a shared library of words, terms, and phrases specific to your institution.

3  Make career preparation your priority 

News coverage of career preparation in higher education is increasingly critical, with university presidents and students alike indicating that traditional colleges aren’t preparing students for the job market. A new focus on work-based experiential learning, internships, and real-world applications of skills is the response of many institutions.

How does your institution approach career preparation, and do you have plans to shine a spotlight on that approach? How do your programs prepare students for the real world? How does your career center serve students throughout their experience at your institution? 

One of the most high-impact areas an institution can invest in for career preparation is written communication. Ninety percent of employers today rank written communication as “very” or “somewhat” important, yet only 44 percent believe graduates are adequately prepared. Institutions can play a lead role in closing this gap by equipping students with a tool that coaches and trains them to become more effective communicators. 

When students step into the workforce with strong written communication skills, they benefit in several ways: They avoid the reputational and financial costs of poor communication; they are more prepared for the agile, digital career path ahead of them, and they can fully bring themselves and their ideas into the work they do — regardless of the field or industry they choose.

Differentiate your student experience to drive enrollments

Rising competition in higher education means the bar for student experience at your institution must rise, too. Students have options, agency, and an inkling that the traditional higher education path might not give them what they need — but you can reassure them that your institution is the right choice by giving them a unique, differentiated experience.

How will you support students? How will you invite students into your culture? And how will you prepare them for the future? The answers to those questions will create relationships and connections that drive enrollment and retention among today’s students.

Ready to differentiate your student experience? Contact our team to learn more about Grammarly for Education.

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