120+ Virtual Engagement Strategies for Incoming Students


120+ Virtual Engagement Strategies for Incoming Students

Currently, it’s more important than ever to cultivate a sense of belonging and connection with incoming students, as colleges and universities face several new threats to their incoming class. To combat the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, institutions must develop new and creative ways to engage students through orientation and across the summer. We have organized over 120 virtual engagement strategies in seven key areas:

  • Build affinity and sense of belonging
  • Drive engagement with academics
  • Engage parents and family members
  • Facilitate virtual campus experiences
  • Foster peer connections
  • Offer service opportunities
  • Provide career exploration opportunities
Build affinity and sense of belonging with incoming students

Students’ sense of belonging at their institution is critical to student success, persistence, and equity. Prevent summer melt by making students feel like members of the campus community.

  • “Health Tip of the Day” Instagram posts
  • Instagram hashtag for incoming students
  • Instagram story templates
  • Social media quick polls to get students excited about return to campus (e.g., Vote for a premium dinner in the dining hall)
  • Student influencer Instagram pages
  • Twitch livestream sessions led by orientation leaders, featuring rotating campus guests
  • Email campaign highlighting virtual events for incoming students
  • Phone campaigns conducted by current students to welcome new students
  • Radio show or podcast focused on what incoming students need to know
  • Student Podcast: A Day in My Life
  • Video series: “What Being a _______ Means to Me”
  • Virtual Student Experience Portal
  • Campus Zoom backgrounds
Drive engagement with academics

Get students excited about enrolling in the fall by showcasing all the academic opportunities your institution has to offer. Partner with faculty on virtual lecture series or short introductory videos on different academic areas for students to explore.

  • Major-specific webinars for incoming students
  • One-credit virtual summer class for incoming students
  • Popular classes lecture series
  • Texting campaign for incoming students about upcoming academic events
  • Video series spotlighting academic experiences
  • Virtual campus library tour
  • Virtual tutoring sessions/workshops
  • AMA session with campus librarian
  • Faculty meet-and-greet webinars
  • Faculty one-on-one mentorship opportunity
  • One-on-one academic advisor sessions
  • Virtual “study buddies” (pair students to meet)
  • Virtual faculty office hours
  • Virtual writing workshops and exercises
Engage parents and family members of incoming students

Recognize the important role families play in students’ academic journeys by engaging them across the summer, too. Build affinity and credibility with families by connecting them with other parents and providing transparent information around concerns related to COVID-19.

  • “Safety on campus during COVID-19” AMA with senior university administrators for admitted students’ parents
  • Facebook live orientation sessions offered in multiple languages
  • Facebook Live Parent Council meetings
  • Modules on college experience for first-gen parents
  • Phone campaign for parents
  • Parent-champion-organized events like Zoom Happy Hours
  • Facebook groups for parents of incoming students
  • GroupMe or text-chat groups for parents of incoming and current students
  • Virtual Family Feud competition
  • Virtual introduction to campus career services for parents
Facilitate virtual campus experiences

Help students picture life on campus by recreating campus experiences like watch-parties for previous championship games and virtual open mics.

  • Campus a capella group concert series
  • Championship game watch night
  • Esports intramural leagues
  • Esports tournaments
  • Outside speaker event with virtual AMA
  • TikTok dance competition
  • Virtual cook-along with dining hall
  • Virtual activity fair
  • Virtual art gallery/showcase
  • Virtual club meetings or coffee hours (e.g., Black Student Union, Campus Republicans/Democrats, etc.)
  • Virtual concert/talent show
  • Virtual meditation class
  • Affinity group virtual meet and greets (e.g., Black Student Union, LGBTQ+ organization, First Generation Student Union)
  • Google Maps virtual student life tour
  • Livestream workouts with rec sports or athletics coaches
  • Post-orientation surveys and quizzes
  • Student services virtual information sessions
  • Virtual trivia
  • Virtual workout classes
  • Website “Easter egg” hunt
  • Virtual mental health support groups
  • Virtual religious services
  • Zoom bake-alongs
Foster peer-to-peer connections of incoming students

Incoming students are eager to make new friends at their institution, but it’s hard to connect during large webinars. Offer virtual activities with smaller, interest-based groups so students can connect with their peers in more informal settings.

  • “Coffee & Convo” sessions with student leaders
  • “Pour the Tea” hot-topic discussions
  • Chat box staffed by student employees or volunteers
  • Connect cohorts of students who will share living/learning community or residence hall floor
  • Connect cohorts of students who will share their first-year seminar class
  • Hobby webinars led by current students or staff
  • Housing-specific orientation groups and virtual activities
  • Individualized outreach from orientation leaders
  • Interest-driven orientation meeting groups
  • “Letter to my future self” writing activity and share-out
  • Region-based student affinity groups
  • Ted Talk-inspired conversations
  • At-home scavenger hunt
  • Contest with bookstore gift card or similar prizes
  • Kahoot! livestream games
  • Multiplayer games via Jackbox
  • Pet photo competition
  • Virtual bingo
  • Virtual board game night
  • Virtual book/article club
  • Virtual dance parties
  • Virtual jeopardy
  • Virtual paint classes
  • Virtual speed meet-and-greet for incoming students
  • Orientation leader Instagram live AMAs
  • Recipe exchange
Offer virtual volunteer and service opportunities

Provide students the chance to give back and build connections with the community by highlighting local virtual service opportunities.

  • “Be My Eyes” volunteering opportunity to help visually impaired students
  • “Virtual” blood drive
  • Service-themed Instagram campaign
  • Translators without Borders volunteering
  • Volunteer to live-caption webinars or meetings for peers
  • 7 cups virtual volunteering
  • ‘Mascots…Give Back’ campaign- Students and alumni post blogs about how they’ve helped their local communities
  • Project Gutenberg volunteering
  • Service opportunities from local organizations
Provide career exploration opportunities

Demonstrate to cost-conscious Gen Z students that a degree from your institution can set them on a path to professional success. Giving an early introduction to career services is even more important in light of significant economic impacts related to COVID-19.

  • Alumni career day video or webinar
  • Alumni Career Paths virtual panel webinar
  • Instagram takeovers for alumni: “Day in the Life of…”
  • StrengthsFinder online assessment and follow-up conversations
  • One-on-one career advising sessions
  • Produce career spotlights focused on recent graduates
  • Q&A webinar with career center director
  • Spotlight recent internships carried out by current students

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