As an Academic Advisor in the College of Business and Technology (CBT), I devised a comprehensive plan for recruitment and retention of freshmen students. The purpose was to design, implement, and evaluate methods of reaching incoming freshmen for the greater goal of retaining them as students at the University of Texas at Tyler. The plan included several initiatives including social media, customer service training, and a survey of potential leavers.
It is a known fact that one of the perks of academic advising is that you never, ever get bored!
For instance, for the past couple of years, during our advising lull, we don’t sit around the office catching up nor do we take vacation. No, no…instead we hit the road! We travel to high schools and community colleges, preaching the gospel of a 4-year degree. This year, I changed up my presentation significantly, and so far, it keeps the students awake and engaged for a full hour or more—which, if you have ever worked with high-schoolers, is an epic accomplishment.
#1 Make them do math and vocab (*evil laugh*)
I start my presentation with some general admissions info, like our Transfer Requirements which are that students have to have 30 hours and a GPA of 2.00. Now, I had forgotten what it was like not to know what ’30 hours’ and ‘2.00 GPA’ meant, until I asked a class and one brave junior spoke up and said it was like 30 hours of community service.
Therefore, I now make each class break it down: 3 hours is one class, 4 classes is full time, you generally take 4 classes a semester–so 30 hours takes about 1 year. I also explain semesters, core, and prerequisites very briefly.
#2 Survey your audience.
Just as they start to get a little glassy-eyed, I switch gears. I survey my audience by asking a simple question, “What is the first thing that pops into your head when I say the word business?” These are the answers I usually get–in order of frequency:
Owning your own business
Boring <–This was what I thought about business when I was their age!
#3 Move. Laugh. Learn.
I then tell them that we’re going to do an activity that is going to change what they think of when they hear the word business. We start by drawing a business from a bag (a bunch of pieces of paper that I printed, cut, and threw into a cute UT Tyler baggie). It could be anything from a comic book store to a salon and day spa. The person who drew the business gets to be the owner and picks classmates to fill the following roles:
Human Resource Manager
Then we role-play the steps to getting a loan, making a budget with multiple lines, building equipment (out of LEGOs), creating a marketing campaign, and hiring and training employees. If time permits, we even role-play an unhappy customer scenario, which usually gets everyone—including the teacher—rolling on the floor. It’s a fun way to get them to start connecting the dots between business majors and actual careers.
#4 Give-aways galore!
After the activity, I ask the class questions from my earlier presentation. We don’t have glamorous prizes, but throw candy into a coffee mug, and BAM! We’ve got a prize that will get the sleepiest senior jumping up and down for a chance to win. I usually ask 3-5 questions per class, and I carry extras in case I want to give a prize to someone who was particularly engaged or who is sincerely interested in applying to our institution.
#5 The power of video.
At this point, I have inevitably lost control of the class, but that’s okay, because I have a plan: a video (Here’s a snippet). It is an 8 minute promotional video that one of my colleagues in Admissions let me have, and it is a LIFE SAVER!
So, tell me—what do you do during your down time? As an advisor, do you do any recruiting? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments!
Thanks for reading, and look for my next post on April 15!
I have found social media for academic advising offices to be tricky. For one, we are not selling a product or service for profit. Second, it is very time-consuming to set everything up and maintain it.
Over the past couple of years, my colleagues and I in the academic advising office of the College of Business and Technology at UT Tyler have tried to tackle this problem. I have summed up our social media plan here for you. If you want more in-depth information on the topics below, click on the links in pink.
#1 Bribe your co-workers with food.
You cannot run all the social media for your office alone. Well…you can, but that would be boring. Hunt down that person in the office who everyone depends on for unofficial ‘tech support’ (you know, the person who magically formats tables in Word with the click of a button). Then find your social media ‘guru’–that colleague who not-so-secretly spends most of day on Pinterest and Instagram. Treat these people to lunch and tell them you need their ninja technology skills to set up a social media campaign for your office. In order for your project to have longevity, you must bring others on board…plus it is way more fun!
In our office we have three academic advisors, and each of us takes two days a week to post to our sites.
#2 Choose no more than two applications to get started.
There is no need to keep up with every single trend. We started with the easy ones, Facebook and Twitter. These provide easy access to multiple account managers and can be managed from our office computers. In the beginning, I suggest you steer clear of applications that need a single ‘owner’ (like LinkedIn) or apps like Instagram that are best used with a phone.
At first, it was daunting to figure out what to post and when to post, so we set up a schedule for our team of three advisors, kind of like this:
Advising Tip of the Week
Advising Tip of the Week
And so forth…
Once we had a schedule in place, we did not deviate from it for a few weeks. We watched our stats to see what types of posts our audience enjoyed the most, then adjusted our schedule and/or topics accordingly.
#4 Use a social media manager like Hootsuite to schedule your posts ahead of time.
We use the free, basic version of Hootsuite: Hootsuite Quick-Start-Guide (HINT: If you run your accounts through Hootsuite, create a pseudo-Facebook account then use this account to create a Facebook Page for your office. Link both accounts to Hootsuite, but only post to the Page, identified by a little yellow flag.)
#5 Have fun.
The moment you start to stress is the moment you are doing it all wrong. So you got busy and didn’t post anything for a couple of days? No big deal. So you made a spelling error? Whatever, it happens. Just keep at it, read everything you can about social media, and be adventurous.
Random things I have learned.
People want to be encouraged. Students love infographics. Do not try to understand hashtags, #justusethem and you will #figureitout. Students like to see pictures of faculty goofing off. Job postings get a lot of views/clicks. Balance fun with informative.
What are your office’s social media sites? Do you have any tips for me? Confess your worst social media flops, give me some ideas, or ask me a question in the comments! Thank you for reading, and look for my next post on March 15.
Oh, and feel free to check out our advising office’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts for ideas!
NOTE: Our college loved what we were doing so much that the Marketing Coordinator took over all the social media, adopting the sites we’d set up and many of our practices. It was very exciting to see our efforts recognized!