In his op-ed for Medium, Dr. Terrell L. Strayhorn reported students’ sense of belonging is as necessary as access to food and shelter in college. In their search for the “right fit,” prospective students look for evidence of a sense of belonging on campus visits and in pamphlets, and this sense of belonging at school is what motivates current students to persist through their studies.
On a basic level, a student feels accepted when they can positively answer questions like:
- Do I have things in common with my classmates?
- Can I make friends?
- Am I valued?
Colleges and universities can answer these questions and boost students’ sense of belonging by adopting methods that diversify incoming classes, giving academic support to at-risk students, and providing underrepresented student groups a platform to communicate with the rest of their peers and faculty.
Another branch of the college experience that can speak to students’ ability to feel like they belong involves school spirit. Institutions that have robust school spirit initiatives facilitate ways for their students to connect with their peers, provide a common ground for everyone from newly enrolled freshmen to alumni in their 80s, and instil a sense of pride and community within the student body.
Higher education institutions are already using texting and artificial intelligence to foster students’ sense of belonging with school pride as a key component of their efforts. Keep reading to see the various ways that schools have utilized chatbots to fill seats at soccer games, strengthen on-campus engagement, and check-in on students that may feel left behind.
Building School Spirit: Game and Event Reminders
Athletics and other events that seek on-campus student engagement can help students find a connection with their school and classmates, which adds to their sense of belonging. In his Psychology Today article, Texas Tech University human development and family studies professor Alan Reifman noted that students who identify with their university’s athletics program may build more friendships with their classmates and reduce social isolation experience than students who do not connect with their school’s teams.
Because athletics competitions and other school spirit events can build a student’s sense of belonging, college staff should help connect students with these on-campus opportunities. Colleges don’t need to invest millions into their football programs or host other costly events that take months to plan in order to promote engagement. Instead, forward-thinking staff have adopted artificially intelligent chatbots to text their students about games and events to increase attendance and connect students with their school.
At the University of South Carolina Aiken, staff send out text message campaigns to targeted groups of students to remind them about games and other events on campus. Not only do these texts serve as fun reminders for students to see what’s going on around campus, but they help to promote USC Aiken’s brand and differentiate the university from the larger USC flagship campus located an hour away.
Building School Spirit: Play Trivia
Sending quick facts or trivia questions about your institution points students to specific reasons why they should be proud to attend. For example, sending students fun facts about student body diversity allows receivers to feel represented and provides a positive association with their school. These texts don’t always have to suggest a direct correlation to students’ sense of belonging, however, they can even be trivia questions that simply aim to engage the student with the chatbot and college, just like this example from the University of Tulsa:
The University of Tulsa also strengthens school spirit on social media with university-specific hashtags. On social media posts, the University of Tulsa includes the hashtag #utulsa, which not only helps to build a community on campus, but an online one as well.
Building School Spirit: Hold Giveaways
Everyone likes free stuff – especially students! Giveaways are a fun way for students to engage with their college and get something in return. Some schools do this through fun activities like scavenger hunts around campus, or through texts that incentivize students to attend on-campus events, like this example from USC Aiken:
With this text campaign, USC Aiken staff combine all three aforementioned principles to engage students, advertise university excellence, and ultimately add to students’ sense of belonging. Like trivia, giveaways put a different spin on engaging students and reward those who participate.
Worried that your efforts to promote school spirit through text won’t be fruitful, even with the added bonus of free stuff? Don’t be! Surveys show that 97% of people read every text message they receive, and 45% of texts elicit responses.
Building School Spirit: Take a Pulse with a Poll
At Cal Poly Pomona, university staff text their students interactive surveys to gauge how their students feel about attending and to improve students’ sense of belonging. Surveys like this one help university staff understand what their students value, establish a connection between students and the university, and pinpoint their strengths as well as areas for improvement based on student answer data.
Like school spirit initiatives, surveys like this one help to enhance overall sense of belonging, but staff can also use texting survey technology to ask students how they feel about school spirit itself. With surveys, staff have the ability to ask if students have school spirit, what school spirit events they like the most, and what advancements they’d like to see going forward. By using this data, staff can effectively change their school pride approach, which can help students feel more welcomed and accepted within the school community.
Artificially intelligent chatbots are already proven to help enrollment and retention efforts, but AI also has the power to affect more niche endeavors like school spirit growth, which can help improve students’ sense of belonging.
By focusing on developing school spirit through texting, college staff have the ability to quickly and effectively grow their students’ sense of school pride and community. Texting also effectively scales staff efforts: AdmitHub’s chatbots have the power to give personalized support and hold unique conversations with thousands of students simultaneously, which gives all students the resources they need to form relationships on and with their campus.
Are you ready to enhance your school’s spirit using AI-powered text messaging to help students cultivate a sense of belonging? Request a demo with our team, and together we can explore how AdmitHub’s AI communications platform and conversational strategy can impact your institution’s school spirit and other critical goals.