Welcoming Students… On The Day They Are Accepted?

December 17, 2013, 7:09 pm

I’ve always been interested in reaching out to students as soon as possible. Conceptually I like that space in the summer – the metamorphosis from high school senior to college freshmen. It feels like a prime time to engage and cultivate a positive relationship.

I use to consider the traditional route. Devise a fun print piece and have that item included in a welcome packet or other mailing. Of course incoming students receive a barrage of info and you’d really have to standout. They also have immediate (deadline-driven) needs like financial aid, housing, course selection, meal plans, and football tickets.

Facebook groups are another possibility to start the conversation. I wrote about making a good impression on incoming freshmen several years ago. Students form groups (i.e. Class of 2014) and interact with each other on social and academic matters. I’ve engaged with several classes in this mode. You get a lot of questions: IT, parking, campus culture, student orgs, procedural matters, etc. But this has always felt re-active.

Then last week I saw this tweet:



I was struck by the news that just in time for the holidays— 40% off apparel — students are finding out that they “got in.” That’s still eight months out. That’s a long lead-time for relationship development.

I checked around on Twitter and Instagram and saw that many students wrote tweets and snapped photos of their acceptance letters, proudly posted them online. They want their friends and followers to know. In fact, they want the world to know; they are Hokies now.

Missed Opportunity?

I feel like this is a missed opportunity and one I hope to address next year. Here is my current thinking:

We push out a 20-second video to the various hashtags and interest groups that pop-up for next year’s class. The video starts with a quick note: Welcome to Virginia Tech. They we see a fast paced collage of interesting furniture and technology. They see the library is packed. There is a lot of movement. We showcase the scholarly energy. In short, we build their expectations and start to form a narrative of what is an academic library.

The video ends with something like: We’ll See You In August. And fades out with the Virginia Tech logo and the words University Libraries.

Perhaps we follow that up once a month, pushing out content to the various public groups and hashtags that this user segment develops. We keep feeding them 20-second video bursts that connect them to the University. Maybe we push out fun campus traditions, like the annual snowball fight. Or we provide them with live streaming access to our cultural events, like Nikki Giovanni reading and interacting with students in our library café. Or even a technology commercial — students using our 3D printer for course assignments and personal endeavors.

You see where I’m going with this. We feed their enthusiasm and offer them a glimpse into the lifestyle that is awaiting them in Blacksburg. We help them to imagine being on campus. Entwined with all that we showcase the library.

I thought about this a lot over the weekend. I like the concept. You get your acceptance letter. You post something about it online and days (hours?) later you are invited to view a cool video that opens your eyes about the library and the next few years ahead. Welcome to our community. We can’t until you get here! It’s going to be awesome. That’s our message and we build that thread all throughout their senior year in high school. By the time they arrive in August the Library is already familiar to them and becomes a must-see destination.

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