20/20 – Day 17: 20 ways to improve induction

The first days at university are daunting.  With so much going on and so many things to do, the induction process is either a whirlwind of excitement or a whirlpool of horror.

In today’s 20/20 post, I highlight 10 ways institutions can improve the induction process and 10 ways students can get the most from the first days in a new place.  Some unis are better than others at welcoming their students.  If everything on the below list is already covered, a shiny gold star to them!

10 tips for universities

  1. Stop bombarding.  The Fresher experience is overwhelming at the best of times.  Throwing every last possible piece of information in our direction is not going to make us feel at ease.
  2. Make it fun, not frantic.  The phrase “There’s loads to do!” can be spoken both positively and negatively. Let’s make it the former, please.
  3. Improve the registration process if it’s not already quick and easy.  Hours of queues, hours of paperwork, hours of boredom.  If that’s how students see their university for the first time, it’s not a good sign.  Give them a great experience from the outset, even when completing necessary administrative tasks.
  4. Explain the university ethos. What sets this university apart from the others?  How do you shine as an academic institution?  If your students don’t know, how can they help your identity flourish and how can they set themselves apart from any other student in the country?
  5. Highlight what’s expected from undergraduate study.  The transition between school and uni is a big one.  It’s not good enough to mention that in passing as you welcome everyone through the door.  Introducing a primer on undergraduate study should be a priority.
  6. Make introductory sessions short and snappy. And INTRODUCTORY! No need to bamboozle and talk about concepts we don’t yet know or care about.  Give a brief outline without the jargon and leave the detail for the literature or later sessions.
  7. Work with the Students’ Union, not as well as them.  Overlap is pointless, it’s money down the drain, and it highlights an imperfect bond.  Give students the confidence that the university and the Students’ Union operate on similar terms and similar ground.  The student experience should start with collaboration, not clashes.
  8. Introduce a one-stop query shop for incoming Freshers.  Many new students don’t know where to turn, even when they’ve been given the tools.  Remember the first point about bombarding?  Help students with a central point for any and all queries.  And keep improving student ambassador and new student outreach schemes.
  9. Get students acquainted *before* they arrive! The online possibilities are massive. Use them!
  10. Stop playing cool and exciting. Be informative and welcoming.

10 tips for students

  1. Take stuff. You may not realise you need it. And if you really don’t need it, someone else you meet might need it (and will be ever so grateful).
  2. Read stuff.
  3. Keep stuff.
  4. Focus on the newness, not the overwhelmingness. The whole clichéd “You’re all in the same boat” is a cliché because it’s true.
  5. Understand that you’re allowed to find it daunting. Everyone should be a bit afraid and out of their comfort zone if they do it right.
  6. Never be afraid to ask.
  7. Got an unsatisfactory response? Ask someone else. Keep asking until your question is properly answered by someone. It won’t take long; there will be lots of people happy to help.
  8. Think baby steps, one step at a time. You don’t have to understand everything straight away. You’ve got several years for that.
  9. Prepare a checklist of what you want to do, need to find out, and require in order to prepare.  Slowly, but surely, start ticking things off as you go along.
  10. Don’t act clever or play the fool.  You’ve got years to impress people and go crazy.  Rushing in like a loon on Day One won’t impress anyone.

How would you improve induction for Freshers?

Title image: original by tiffa130 (cc)  /  Bottom image: David Reece (cc)