4 Strategies to Build a Thriving First Year Student Experience Program for Mobile-First Students and their Families

The First Year Student Experience has always been critical to ensuring that students feel included and confident transitioning into their first year of college. But, in recent years, especially with the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic, the FYE program has had to transform to meet the dynamic needs of incoming students and their families.

When it comes to mobile-first students it’s time to shift and upgrade the FYE leveraging modern technology to advance it. With that in mind, we’ve compiled four must-haves when supporting long term student success to help students feel a strong sense of belonging throughout their academic journey. To make this a reality, here’s how a community-first orientation platform can build persistent lasting relationships as part of a dynamic First Year Student Experience:

1) Support first year student and family academic integration 

Parents and families are much more involved in the student lifecycle, especially at the beginning of a student’s college transition and embarking on orientation. To help students get a strong start from the get go, prioritize access to resources and information to students and their families when it comes to the areas that mean most to them. For starters, the academic aspect is pivotal to students and their families, and an area they want consistent insight into. With a first year/orientation platform make sure your varying academic platforms are integrated for visibility.

With an LMS integration get virtual office hours, automated calendaring of due dates, and links to academic resources around campus. This gives students 24/7 access to the tools they’ll need to succeed academically throughout the school year.

2) Support first year student and family social integration with their new university community

Aside from academics, arguably one of the most critical parts of a student’s college experience is their social interactions. With your first year/orientation platform, offer virtual engagement opportunities for students and their families to build a strong relationship with the school community.

In an orientation app, students can join sub-group pages and chat channels. Here students can find other new students and participate in discussions to kickstart meaningful connections. There’s also DM and PMG features that give students the chance to reach one another through direct messages or personal message groups. In an authenticated platform they can message one another and have peer-to-peer interactions on their own time in a safe environment.

3) Foster student identity and connection within campus

Empower students to introduce themselves to their new campus community in a variety of ways through the FYE platform. They can build a student profile and share their bio and interests in one dedicated location. Through your FYE/orientation platform, avoid outsourcing your most effective strategy to third party social platforms. Keep those insights in house to better understand your students and family communities to help build a space just for them.

Fortunately, campuses have been able to host in-person events again after months of remote or hybrid engagement. Promote your on-campus activities and ensure your new students know where they can participate with an auto-generated calendar in one place. Pull in all the latest events and news to stay informed about what’s happening on campus. Develop an accompanying virtual map or tour to show students exactly where locations are around campus and help them get their bearings as they explore their new environment. 

4) Partnering with others to prepare and connect students and families

Work with other departments and resources around campus to give incoming students an expansive experience. Team up with student organizations, and host a virtual student activities fair on your FYE platform to help students see what organizations are on campus and connect online. They can even see when meetings are taking place, view current members, and start asking questions at their own pace. Work with other departments to create pages dedicated to these other resources, and maintain an inventory within the platform.