Welcome back to another student experience episode! In this week’s episode, we’ll be covering a topic that is often overlooked; creating a year-long plan that covers more than just the academic year.
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Why is it important to manage the student experience 12 months a year, when the academic year usually only lasts 6-10 months (depending on the country you study in). The answer should be clear. The moment a student starts a degree at your university, they are your responsibility until they graduate (although even then you should still take care of the general ‘alumni’ experience). The holidays are in fact a vulnerable time for a lot of students. We’ll explain our thoughts by outlining the following three problems.
Firstly, although it may only represent a small portion of students, some are not able to go home during the holidays. This may be due to factors such as personal circumstances, financial limitations, or retakes. For a lot of students, this can be a painful period. Staying behind while watching all your peers go back home to a supportive environment can be mentally draining. Especially for students who have only recently moved away from their home environments to go and study (as homesickness may play an even bigger role then).
No one likes to be alone during the holidays, but the harsh truth is that there will always be students for whom this is a reality. In fact, with recent lockdowns still happening all over the world, this has been a particular issue for international students. When Uni-Life set up a community group for students who were unable to go home, over 500 students joined in just a few days (indicating the magnitude of the problem).
Secondly, during the holidays it’s very easy to lose your sense of rhythm. During the normal academic year, you’ll most likely get into a pretty set rhythm each day. Classes in the morning, sports in the afternoon, a party tonight and exams in 2 weeks. Whenever you’re in a flow it’s much easier to plan your days.
During the holidays, however, a lot of this fixed structure disappears. You have no more classes, no friends to hang out with and a lot of facilities will be closed or have limited opening hours (if your university is not in a thriving city). Studies have shown that completely losing your rhythm can have a negative effect on your health (e.g. going to bed later, eating more irregular times, boredom, etc.).
Lastly, the holidays are actually a peak period for dropouts. Many universities have indicated that once students go home for the winter holidays, they have such a good time being back with their families and old friends that they refuse to go back. That means that even students who do have the privilege of going home may be at risk of dropping out.
As a result, it is detrimental for universities to support the student experience for the full 365 days. To do that, we suggest a few options.
Following these steps will hopefully help you identify a segment of students who are already vulnerable, and likely to get in an even tougher position over the holidays. As mentioned, this may not always be a huge segment of students, but this group is definitely at a very high risk of dropping out (which may lower that student’s morale even further).
The biggest learning, based on all our talks with students, is that even meeting just 1 or 2 new friends during the holidays can already make a massive difference