The Key to Student Success: Keep Things Human

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In the ever-changing realm of higher education, the rise of Generation Z students has sparked a revolution, reshaping the landscape of academia as we know it. With their digital prowess, entrepreneurial flair, and unwavering commitment to social and environmental causes, Gen Zers are rewriting the rulebook on what it means to be a college student. Gone are the days of passive learning—these students crave hands-on experiences and purpose-driven education that resonates with their values. And let’s not forget their yearning for genuine connections with their institution.

What does this mean for higher education institutions when it comes to retaining these students? It means it’s time to get personal. To see students as more than just enrollment or retention rates, staff must start with empathy. When we take the time to see beyond a student ID number or enrollment status, we uncover a fundamental truth: A student’s wants and needs aren’t any different from the expectations you have as an employee; you’re both seeking fulfilling experiences based on your values, expectations, and goals.


Consider this: What do you need to thrive in your career? A supportive environment, flexibility to accommodate your lifestyle, constructive feedback, and a sense of recognition for your hard work. Students want the same things. They’re looking for more than just a diploma—they want a personalized experience that prepares them for success in the real world. So how can we tailor our support to meet each student’s unique needs and aspirations?


While we don’t expect institutions to conduct highly personalized outreach to every student on campus, there are still impactful ways to provide more personal, empathetic support. Here are some actionable steps you can implement to enhance student success.


1. Rely on Student Data

First and foremost, ensure you have access to robust data sources and are proficient in tracking key metrics. Once you have an understanding of the available data, the real magic lies in translating it into actionable insights tailored to each student’s individual needs.

This may seem obvious, but many institutions use their student data to understand how the institution is doing. We must shift the focus from viewing data as an institutional success resource to viewing data as a student success resource that allows us to learn more about the students themselves. After all, understanding their needs and experiences is paramount to providing effective support and fostering their success.


2. Implement Student Recognition Programs

Gen Z students both want and deserve our attention, whether they’re acing exams or struggling to keep up. That’s why taking the time to recognize their achievements and milestones is so important. Imagine someone saying to you, “Hey, we see you, and we’re proud of you!” Students need this too. By implementing recognition programs and workflows that celebrate student success, institutions not only boost morale but also show their unwavering commitment to student well-being and growth. Keep the positivity flowing and celebrate wins.

3. Empower Students to Seek Out Support

Instead of relying solely on early alert systems, institutions should empower students to voice their concerns and challenges directly. Create accessible channels for students to speak up and foster a sense of agency and belonging. Also, don’t put all your eggs in one basket—relying solely on advisors to identify and guide struggling students isn’t always the best way to help. Sometimes, students need a direct line to student success coordinators as a way to hit the “early alert” button on themselves. Every student should feel comfortable and confident sharing their thoughts and concerns.

4. Create Opportunities for Peer Connections

By weaving peers into a student’s support network, institutions build a community where collaboration thrives and success follows. But make sure you let students have a say in who is part of their relationship circle, instead of assigning them to a group of peers with whom they are not comfortable with. Let’s give students the power to build their support system.

5. Extend Support Beyond the Classroom

Extend support beyond the classroom by having student success coordinators collaborate closely with the institution’s mental and physical health advocates. Surveys by the American College Health Association reveal alarming statistics: 60% of college students reported overwhelming anxiety, and 50% reported feelings of depression. Financial worries add to their burden, with rising tuition costs and student loan debt causing significant stress. If student success coordinators can identify and reach out to students who may be struggling with mental and physical health issues, they can provide beneficial resources.

Keeping Things Human in the Face of Technology Advancements

Retention technology has its perks. Tools like Jenzabar Retention can assist in identifying struggling students and streamlining processes. But when it comes to student retention and success, we can’t forget the importance of keeping things human. Just like how many people would rather chat with a real person than navigate through an automated system, students are no different. They often crave genuine connections and personalized support that only a real person can provide. 

This blog was written by Jasmin Perez, Product Manager at Jenzabar. 

CTA_Product _Jenzabar Retention

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