3 min read

Designing for the Student Lifecycle

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Throughout a student’s lifecycle at an institution, they’re going to need help often.

From their initial admittance and enrollment, to returning year after year, then finally prepping for graduation and their careers. These are all major milestones, but there are also several smaller moments throughout their time at college that need to be considered and designed for an optimal experience. It’s crucial that none of these moments in a student’s lifecycle are overlooked because barriers and hurdles, especially when a student is already struggling and looking for help, can be the deciding factor between persisting and dropping out.

Here are some guidance on how to make all the moments matter to students in the best way possible:

It’s All In the Details

I’ll admit, I’m not the most detail-oriented person. That’s why it’s important for me to have someone on my team to help check me. You need to make sure you’re mindful of the details and see how you can work to contour and design them to better achieve your goals. Say, for example, that students aren’t completing your satisfaction survey. Is it too long? Too hard to find? Not mobile friendly? Are the directions and purpose unclear?

Consider extrapolating this out for other parts of the student lifecycle. Every form you have, student feedback you request, appointment scheduled, and contact attempted can be better designed to support the entire student experience. Often these small pieces are used frequently by most students, so the outcomes that can come from the effort you put in to improve them matters a lot.

People Power

The interactions and relationships students have with your office can be designed and structured so that every moment is easy and enjoyable for students. Making sure your team is empowered to make positive impressions on students is a valuable way to design to further your retention goals. This certainly plays into the prior point of making sure the tools and systems are in place to allow for your people to do their work well. Use the knowledge your team has to make sure trainings take place to inform everyone of the importance of adapting to student behavior and understanding what those behaviors are. Also, make sure your systems are aligned to allow for information sharing and collaboration since it is counterintuitive to keep your fellow colleagues working in silos. Students often don’t perceive there being any sort of separation when they’re going to different offices. They’re just going to another person at the institution. Even the best systems will falter without the right people and information to power them.

Overcoming Limitations

How can you address gaps in your knowledge to design and provide better service? It’s especially hard to know what the student experience is really like without going through it yourself. That’s why it is important to bring students in help share their perspectives but also to help with your reach and impact. Say you’re trying to help with the part of the student lifecycle that gets students to sign up for courses. Students can provide direct feedback on pain points and what they’d like to see improved. They can also help by acting as peer advisors trained by your team to expand your ability to personally connect with students. Your team can only be so many places at once. The same can go for getting more engagement with your career services office for example. Designing for the modern student lifecycle means existing outside the typical bounds of time and space for your office to be able to have students get what they need, when they need it, and also be able to connect in more ways than just walking in.

The student lifecycle is long and complex. Students will move through it at different speeds and may need certain types of support once or throughout their time at your institution. It’s crucial to make sure each touchpoint you have with students is as seamless as possible. Friction is the enemy of progress here, so make sure you have all of your details covered, people prepped, and gaps closed to minimize it.