On campuses across the country, students are finishing exams, eagerly awaiting winter break. Community colleges must compete with the lure of the holidays, extra shifts at work, and recovery from final exams to capture student mindshare. Historically, colleges haven’t given enough attention to connecting with students during the transition from semester to semester, resulting in suboptimal fall-to-spring student retention rates.
Drawing on theories from behavioral economics and “nudging,” we’ve identified three topics to address with students—via text messaging and email—to ensure that nonacademic or “life” factors don’t prevent their return to college in the spring.
1. Help students access all possible financial support
The break between semesters provides an opportunity to help eligible students who may have neglected to apply for public benefits (e.g., TANF, SNAP, WIC, etc.) during the chaos of summer enrollment. Between the fall and spring terms, community colleges should promote public benefits availability to help students get the financial support they need. Access our research and tools on screening students for public benefits eligibility.
2. Remind students of support services based on individual need
Colleges tend to inform students of resources like tutoring and success courses during impersonal orientations: a time when students are so inundated with information, they’re unlikely to retain anything.
Campus Services Fail to Recruit Participants
Results from 2011 CCSSE and CCIS Surveys
Community colleges can capture students’ attention over winter break by creating customized invitations to use services they might find valuable as they head into the second semester. Access our Non-Cognitive Student Needs Intake Survey and Non-academic Resource Matrix tools to match resources to students’ demonstrated needs.
3. Create messages that prompt student action
Winter break is an optimal time to ensure that students are on track for the spring semester, but college emails must compete for students’ attention with the holiday shopping email onslaught. Access our research on crafting attention-grabbing messages to students, to ensure that emails and text messages compel students to take action.
Want to learn more?
Our latest study, Preventing Early Attrition, identifies three primary causes of attrition and provides best practices to help you eliminate these barriers to success and strengthen students’ path to completion from day one. Download the study.