The transition from high school to college can be tough when it comes to the increased workload, meeting high expectations and balancing the responsibilities of a new level of independence.

Making connections in this new environment and finding a space that students can call their own is crucial. Studies show that student success in college is intricately linked with feeling connected and engaged with a community of peers and professors.

Helping students from all walks of life find their sense of belonging on campus should fuel the work of higher education professionals. This requires a deeper look into what institutions offer in terms of programs, resources and services geared towards making the transition from high school to college more manageable. In the efforts to accomplish this goal, higher education institutions must also recognize that today’s students are far more diverse than ever before and will require innovative support initiatives that target both the individual student and the campus community.

Here are three ways colleges campuses can innovate to enhance students’ sense of accomplishment and well-being.

 1. Communities of practice

One of the most valuable tools for any higher education professional is a community of colleagues to call on to navigate the ever-changing landscape of our work with college students and to share best practices. These communities come in many forms from LGBTQ to multi-ethnic professionals dedicated to international knowledge exchange. These communities are what keep us connected and informed on current trends. They lead us to adopt new ways to make a positive impact on our students.

2. Trainings and development

It is never too early for a student to start sharpening their tools for success. There are hundreds of higher education associations and professional conference experiences that institutions can take advantage of to provide skill-building programs, networking opportunities and serve as co-curricular laboratories to help students feel connected to their institutions outside of the classroom. These trainings can help students and professionals tackle conversations of leadership, diversity and inclusion, social justice, activism and campus community.

3. Research

Institutions must have a strong commitment towards the development of research. Continued research leads to high-impact practices that help bring life to resiliency initiatives, student transitional experiences, leadership development programs, campus climate improvements, academic support initiatives and targeted learning experiences that anchor students to their college communities. This is also how we ensure that our work remains relevant and aligned in fostering the holistic success of all students.  

Today’s college student demographics and interests are changing. It is imperative that higher education institutions adapt to ensure that all students who enter their campuses establish a strong sense of belonging that will ultimately lead to higher grades, successful degree completion and an excellent college experience.