What does “success” look like in your college or university? What about within your specific department? Probably your institution has several different metrics, some of which overlap with each other.
For example: If you have an increasing influx of new admissions each year, but an alarmingly high dropout rate, you know you’re not providing a phenomenal student experience.
Or: If your institution engages and supports its students in a way that many of them cross the graduation stage, but then very few go on to secure desirable employment opportunities, you know there’s still work to be done.
Or: If your graduates flood the different sectors of the workforce and quickly move up their career ladders, but don’t maintain any affinity for or connection with their alma mater, it’s unlikely that you’ll be satisfied with the ways your institution engages its alumni.
True success is holistic
A university is most successful when it:
- organically recruits and retains top-tier talent
- thoroughly provides its students with the support, skills, opportunities, and networks that they need to enter their chosen career path
- continues to form and nurture relational ties with their graduates as they progress throughout their careers.
Importantly, the journey that individual students embark on as they move from potential recruits to engaged students, to connected alumni is not strictly linear. Rather, a successful university is one that has created a sense of community where the individuals at each point of their journey are interacting with other individuals who are in different stages.
Because these three aspects of the student experience are so interconnected, it follows that the three respective departments (e.g. Recruitment and Admissions, Student Experience & Careers Services, and Alumni Relations) are also integrally connected. In many contexts, these three departments actively collaborate together to provide optimal student experiences. But, more generally, this interconnectivity is precisely why it is so important for the university to build and nurture a solid community.
Building a Strong Community Benefits all Members
In What is “Community” and Why Does It Matter?, I explained that a community is much more than a simple group of people. Communities enable and encourage ongoing engagement and support between individuals. They are also intentionally designed and nurtured to increase communication, build trust, and create a sense of belonging.
When the university builds and nurtures a community that encourages engagement across its members, it reaps a number of tangible benefits for its individual departments and teams.
Here are 3 of the top benefits that Recruitment & Admissions teams experience when their higher education institute has a solid community.
- Overall enrollment increases as prospective students engage with current students and alumni members who can relay positive stories about their time as a student.
- Top students across various academic streams are attracted to a university/college with an interconnected community because of the high employability rates associated with strong communities.
- International students are more likely to hear of, and pursue admissions with, a university/college with a strong community.