How to Keep Students On Campus

If your higher institution spends the bulk of its time and money on inbound marketing strategies to attract new students, you’re doing what you should be. But what you may not realize is that just because you bring in a new student doesn’t mean your work is over. Just as businesses need to nurture their relationships with customers, your higher institution needs to nurture relationships with students. When students feel cared for, valued and appreciated, they’ll be more likely to continue their education on your campus rather than looking elsewhere.

Higher Prices = Higher Expectations

It’s no secret that the cost of a higher education is steep. That’s why colleges and universities feel the pressure to prove their worth, and many are stepping up to the challenge. Where they drop off is after the student has enrolled in their school.

Colleges and universities believe that what they have to offer is enough and will keep the student engaged, but this isn’t always the case. Students know they are paying a pretty penny to receive a quality education and college experience, and if they feel that they’re being shortchanged in any way, they won’t hesitate to check out another school.

Let’s take a look at a couple of the issues that today’s higher institutions are facing when it comes to engaging students.

Students are Older

At one time, colleges and universities marketed to the very predictable 18-year-old high school graduate. Today’s undergraduates are much more diverse. In 2009, 39% of undergraduates were over 24 years old. Nearly 50% were financially independent and 53% were not enrolled full time.

It’s important to understand your student base so that you can better meet their needs. Many colleges still march to the same drum of serving young students who are enjoying their first experience away from home. In reality, many of their students are juggling school with work, family or both. If these students feel too pressured, education will be the first thing to go.

Some schools are catering to older students by offering online and hybrid classes that allow for flexible learning. Accelerated degree programs are also a nice perk for older students because they can finish their degree in less time. Also, some colleges have begun building relationships with corporations to provide hands-on training for employees.

Students Live on Campus Less

Fewer students are attending a 4-year college. One study pointed out that only 13% of beginning students live on campus. Another report indicated that 57% of all first-year undergraduates attended two-year colleges in 2008. Even though Americans aren’t ready to give up the traditional on-campus college experience entirely, many are swapping it for a more affordable and attainable junior college.

There’s nothing wrong with living off campus and attending college, but it’s understandable that students will be less engaged than those living on campus. Commuters or those who live off campus tend to be at school only for classes. They’re not eating there, sleeping there or calling the campus “home”. They also tend to use the on-campus facilities less, take part in fewer study groups and attend fewer events. Colleges and universities that have a lot of students who don’t live on campus need to work especially hard to engage students and make them feel connected to the school.

Strategies for Keeping Students Engaged

Nurturing the relationships you have with students is good for enrollment and good for morale. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways you can strengthen your rapport with students.

  • Engage students using technology. Many schools still use outdated channels to communicate with students. It’s time to embrace mobile delivery and send messages to your students at the right time and on the right device.

  • Create personalized marketing. Generic messages rob students of the personalized interactions they deserve. Provide enhanced opportunities for interaction by personalizing your messages and showing students that you understand their journey.

  • Enable analytics. How can you deliver personalized messages? By understanding your students and their behaviors and motivations. Analytics allow you to assess this information and create targeted interactions that resonate with students.

  • Deepen relationships with guidance counselors. Guidance counselors are a key influence in directing undergraduate students. Provide training and resources for your counselors so that they can keep students on task and pursuing their goals.

  • Differentiate your school. What makes your school different? It needs to be something big; something that is worth talking about. For example, Roger Williams University froze their tuition for 4 years.

  • Enhance residential life. Promote campus life activities that connect students. Allow students to have a voice when it comes to addressing concerns or making suggestions. Be proud of your living environment with modern dormitories, healthy food choices, comfortable areas of study and more.

  • Be available. Once a student enrolls, the interaction is not complete. Instead, it has just begun. Be available to students by checking in on them, asking for feedback, setting up appointments with their guidance counselor and more. Students need to feel valued and understood.


Today’s higher institutions have their work cut out for them. Not only must they work diligently to attract quality leads and boost enrollment numbers, but also they must take the appropriate steps to keep students intrigued in their learning environment. By being more sensitive to student needs and understanding the unique student journeys, schools can better nurture their relationships and keep students on campus until they attain their degree.