Best of WACADA 2017: How to Lose a Student in 10 Days

Jolene and Dana, Public Safety advisors at Fox Valley Technical College, have found a way to incorporate humor to enhance relationship building in their everyday interactions with their students.  They thought they would use a similar format to talk to fellow advisors about creative ways to connect with students from the point of first contact. The presentation also served as a reminder that as an advisor, our gift of connecting with students is key to retaining them once they enter the college environment. The presentation used humor to highlight some of the most important touchpoints we can all use to help students reach their academic, career, and personal goals. Since the student experience begins at the initial point of contact with an institution, highlights included opportunities beginning with the admissions stage throughout the entire college experience.

The goal of the interactive presentation was to provide an opportunity for advisors to look at the student experience through a new lens, challenge assumptions, revisit student and advisor expectations, and promote growth while having some fun. A few props were used to keep the presentation lively and interactive:

  • Beach ball with talking points to get to know students in a group setting
  • Blow up hammer intended to be a “fear smasher” for students
  • KAHOOT game to demonstrate the danger of using too many acronyms with new students
  • Interactive time management tool to encourage students to take a realistic approach to balancing their work, school, and family life
  • Co-curricular engagement sheet used as a talking point with students

The props were used to support a variety of messages Jolene and Dana felt were key to student success relative to the advising relationship. Listed below are the 10 ways colleges often lose students throughout their academic journey, along with the suggested remedy for advisors to resolve the situation.

Day 1: Ignore them at the admissions stage

Intended Message: Starting at the application stage, reach out to students early by helping them with financial aid, getting them to registration activities, discussing their scores and other admission requirements.

Day 2: Expect them to handle the transition on their own

Intended Message:  Assist them in getting engaged in college, walk them to their referrals, address potential barriers early on, and recognize the transition is different for every student.

Day 3: Avoid them at all costs: Relationship building

Intended Message: Address how you introduce yourself to students and how to get students to open up. Initial relationship building, as well as ongoing touchpoints, are key to retaining students.

Day 4: Assume they know how to use all our technology

Intended Message: While most students are savvy with their preferred technology, not all students understand the technology at their own college or why they use it. Make sure students are comfortable with technology BEFORE school begins and understand the importance of technology as a support for student success.

Day 5: Keep them guessing with our acronyms we use

Intended Message: Don’t use acronyms with new students who may not be familiar with your lingo. Students are often times uncomfortable asking for help and may not speak up and ask what you mean by a particular acronym or abbreviation.

Day 6: Ignore the fact they have other things in their lives besides school

Intended Message: Since students are many times juggling school, family, job, and other roles, we are in a position to be supportive, build relationships, and serve as a referral hub to help them seek assistance both internally and externally.

Day 7: Assume they know how to study

Intended Message:  Not all students come equipped with skills in taking notes, time management, study habits, and know the key to be successful. We have to use our knowledge as advisors to teach our students how to master these skills.

Day 8: Make assumptions based on limited information  

Intended Message: Don’t make assumptions based off of limited information. Students often times have unexpected situations that cause them to miss class. What assumptions do we make about these students without knowing the whole story?

Day 9: Unintentionally send the wrong message

Intended Message: We are all busy and just getting through the day can feel like enough. Even the most well-meaning among us can unintentionally come across as not caring in our conversations, e-mails, or body language.

Day 10: Ignore their support systems

Intended Message: Some student’s support systems can be invasive, however, it is important to recognize the significance of these support systems and accept them for the value they are for the student.