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Communicating With Students Before the Holidays

by Alexis Glasgow | December 17, 2021
Communicating With Students Before the Holidays

Communicating with Students Before the Holidays

This highly anticipated fall semester involved students transitioning back to in person classes and discovering what their new normal looks like without strict COVID regulations. Ending the semester with several holiday breaks is always a bittersweet process, as final exams and projects often bring in an added layer of stress before the release of winter break. Going back to school in a post-COVID state of mind can alter the mental health of students significantly. A study done by Biomed Public Health Center showed that COVID-19 led to a great degree of social isolation among university staff and students. Social interaction was at an all-time low the last few years and it can be difficult to form those much needed relationships that help maintain positive mental health. Knowing how to help your students boost their morale during this time not only increases the likelihood that they will reach out for support in the future, it also shows the student that they are never alone.

Beyond the student perspective of the holiday season, faculty and staff often face an inevitable communication gap during these breaks. Understanding how to keep this in mind in an effort to boost student engagement is crucial in a time where students can really benefit from positive interaction. Here are some helpful strategies for communicating with students over the holidays in a way that prioritizes their general well-being.

Before you reach out to students around the break, consider these:

  • What items should be prioritized during this time
  • How your students are feeling completing their finals
  • When will your staff be available to connect with students
  • How are you going to handle high-anxiety-producing situations (probation, dismissal, etc)

Positive Communication Looks Like:

Opening up a dialogue before the break begins. Sending an initial message to students just a few days before break starts will give them a heads up on the things they need to get done. This also gives them time to schedule a meeting with their advisor or reach out for help before everyone is gone. Some students stay on campus over the holidays and do not have family to go home to, so keeping this in mind shows that you appreciate those circumstances. I even had a teacher reach out and offer to bring Thanksgiving meals to those on campus one year!

Personalizing  your outreach. Students are less likely to respond if they think that they are getting an automated text message. Including information that is specific to that student allows them to understand that this is a real person behind the screen that is there to help them. Being in college can often be an isolating experience for students and these outreach efforts are the one opportunity to bring these needed action items back into the forefront of the student’s schedule.

Sending direct links. An open-ended text message will often result in no response from your students. Including direct links that allow the student to access their task through the text message strand increases that chance of engagement. This is because the task has been outlined with a link that makes the process accessible while also leaving room for potential questions to be asked if needed.

Action items that prioritize mental health:

  • “Make sure to do one thing that makes you smile today.”
  • “Are you in the right headspace to complete your spring registration this week? If not, let’s schedule a meeting for next Wednesday to figure it out.”
  • “Just checking in! How is the break going?”
  • “We look forward to seeing you after the holiday season. Stay safe and do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions over the break. Applications to graduate are due one week after break ends, so try and take a look at that before our meeting next week.”
  • Put yourself in your student’s shoes - what would you want to hear before break?

Reinforcing Healthy Support Systems

The holiday season is the prime time for student engagement to drop, making it difficult to build back those relationships. This forces students to rely on their own motivation to complete tasks and attempt to successfully re-engage by the time the break is over. Signal Vine has worked diligently to create a method of successfully integrating text messaging with proven student engagement strategy through our ReEngage campaign. Though it is important to support the student while reinforcing that they must have responsibility within their education, these texts serve as strict reminders to stay on track and are often the only source of support for these independent students. Holidays are a busy time for both students and faculty. This time of lost communication can revert the student back to their old ways and drive them off track.

In order to keep both sides running towards the shared goal of student success, efforts to increase student engagement must continue during the winter break. Prioritizing positive mental health as well as giving the student subtle reminders increases the chance that students will respond and complete their goals. The holiday season serves as an important reminder to avoid the possibility of lost communication with students by securing their engagement ahead of time. Having a gained awareness of how these breaks often throw students off of their routine puts an added incentive for faculty and staff to equip themselves with these positive communication strategies.

Learn More:

Enjoyed this article? Check out some of our 2021 webinars to watch over the break:

Activating Enrollment

Appreciative Advising

Mental Health in the COVID-era

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