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How to Nurture High-Achieving College Students

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High-achieving students need help sometimes too. Supporting students is about reaching all students, not just the ones who might trigger an alert. 

There are more students out there who may need help but are going unnoticed. These are “high-achieving” students who by all appearances look to have everything under control due to their coursework completion, stellar attendance, and excellent grades. After digging deeper though, you may find that these students are struggling with things like stress, anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, poor health, or uncertainty about their choices. They can also be competitive and ambitious, which can be really tough to cope with. A student’s mental health is impacted by all of these things, and can hold them back from being their best self.

There’s a great opportunity to create learning moments with more of your students and not ignore students simply because they’re keeping up appearances. Here are some ideas on how to do that:

Have regular Proactive outreach

Outreach we do with students often times is reactive to some type of trigger that denotes a level of retention risk like a missed assignment or not attending class. We need to do this and more. We should be reaching out to all students with personalized messages to check in and make sure they know about important information relevant to them. This can be greatly helped with different digital tools, but it goes a long way to show you care to not just come being the bearer of bad news. It also doesn’t need to be overdone. It can be a few times a term, perhaps once a month, and it should allow for students to give open-ended responses and/or schedule time to speak if needed.

Cater existing resources to them

While you may need to reach out to more students more often, you don’t need to create new services or resources purely for your high-achieving students. You should try to cater them more towards these students. For example, while a student may be doing very well with their classes and their major, they may want more career guidance to make the most of their time at college with internships. Also, this same student might need some help managing their time so they’re taking better care of themselves even though their grades are top notch. Ask some clarifying questions so you can properly position resources that may make a positive difference for them. As mentioned before, mental health coaching can be one such resource that can be contextualized for whatever the student is struggling with, whether it is perfectionism, loneliness, or anxiety.

Utilize peer student leaders

Something to help make the support you give more personal is to empower other student leaders to engage with your students. This way, the interactions can be more genuine and relatable. Through this you should be able to gleam more details and better give solutions than if you purely relied on professional staff. The shared experiences and perhaps near peer aspect of their interactions will be invaluable to making sure that even if a student is perceived as not needing support, they can get what they need.

Making sure to nurture high-achieving students in addition to your current retention efforts will help build a more robust, positive community on campus. More students will feel seen, heard, supported, and cared about by the institution. You may even be building up your next awesome peer student leader.