Acing college recruiting and retention

First impressions mean a lot to future students. Support spaces and amenities once they’re enrolled are crucial to their success

Enrollment is a key vital sign for any college or university’s health. Students make up the lifeblood of the campus and by increasing their numbers, institutions gain the ability to attract the best professors, enhance facilities and offer top educational programs.

Recruitment marks the first step to increase enrollment, and it all starts with building relationships with future students. Universities are turning to several different cutting-edge strategies, from talent forecasting to leveraging the latest technologies, but wowing them on their first visit to campus is crucial to student conversion.

At the University of Kansas, the Jayhawk Welcome Center will use the latest technology to truly make potential students feel they are already a part of the KU family. At first entry, visitors will be greeted with a personalized welcome on the lobby’s two-story LED display. Expansive videos and powerful imagery immerse future Jayhawks by evoking strong emotional responses. Continuing through the spaces visitors interact with an immersive campus map using a touch screen as the points of interest are displayed on a large digital wall. 360-video content and visual information on facilities, such as libraries, residence halls, classrooms and labs allow future Jayhawks to explore the campus in detail. The Welcome Center also takes a holistic culture approach, featuring displays highlighting points of interest within the City of Lawrence, KU’s extensive networking web and success stories from alumni.

When focusing in on student-athletes, facilities can be the main driver in deciding where they commit to playing. Players want to showcase their talents in top-notch spaces that attract the best coaches and fans. The spaces where they train, recover and study will be where they spend much of their time over the next four-plus years. Ensuring fieldhouses are set up with the latest technology to maximize television coverage is just one of the latest upgrades taking front stage in the student-athlete recruitment battles.

Northern State University’s Regional Sports Complex in Aberdeen, South Dakota features the Dacotah Bank Stadium and the Koehler Hall of Fame Softball Field. The football stadium holds approximately 7,000  spectators with a state-of-the-art artificial turf playing surface. The stadium includes new locker rooms, a press box with several suites, meeting and event spaces, stadium seating, concessions and additional facilities to enhance the fan experience. South of the football stadium, the softball field has stadium seating for 300, home and away team dugouts, and a press box.

The facility also improves the overall student experience. By relocating these athletics facilities onto campus, it’s much more accessible: students can now walk to games without having to drive or figure out transportation. As the former NSU President, Dr. Tim Downs described the new facilities, “Our students are excited. There’s a buzz on campus.” The University is seeing an increased trend in campus visits and applications, which Downs expects is from students seeing these campus projects come to life.

While recruiting is ‘hooking’ students in, the efforts do not stop once the students enroll. Colleges are maximizing facility amenities to retain students with the very best student experience.

Kansas State University recently opened the Morris Family Multicultural Student Center to house student services that foster a more inclusive college experience. Located directly adjacent to the student union, the new center includes gathering, meeting and performance practice spaces, student and multicultural student organization group areas, a kitchen, office spaces, prayer/meditation room, and additional core support spaces. Since its opening, the new center creates a safe space that advances student success, diversity, inclusion and social justice at Kansas State University.

The Paul and Linda Debruce Center houses all of the Kansas City Art Institute’s student services in one convenient location, which were originally spread across campus making them less accessible. Bringing together these crucial administrative and success offices gives students the resources to excel in all parts of their college experience. The Hall’s main entry serves as a tribute to art historians and features the names of prominent figures laser cut into panels made by KCAI students. The interior centers around a public atrium with a grand staircase that connects KCAI’s various activities and user groups.

As part of their larger mission to create an Arrival District to reflect the energy and innovation of the University, Missouri S&T is adding a Student Experience Center that will incorporate open and closed collaboration space, a multipurpose room, coffee shop, maker space, student success and support areas. The upper level of the new facility will connect via a sky bridge to the Havener Center, the campus community center that serves students with programs, activities and facilities that complement the educational experience. The creation of the Arrival District directly addresses some of S&T’s recruitment challenges by providing delivering a student experience that is easily navigable, memorable and inspiring, all reflective of the excellence of the University as a whole.

According to National Center for Education Statistics, one-third of students do not reach graduation within six years. Colleges and universities are shifting to build communities where students feel supported with a sense of belonging. And that starts with on-campus facilities. Each of the previously referenced spaces serves the student, or potential student, in a unique and important way. Holistically, they focus on responding to their students’ well-being,  ensuring they are supported to succeed and have the best experience possible.