Things You Don’t Know About Your Event Attendees

The traditional approach of checking students into events over the past year has changed vastly. Paper sign-in sheets and head counts are thing of the past since card-swipe technology has made it’s way into the lives of student affairs professionals. Now #SApro’s can do more than track student attendance at events, they gain insight on behavior and trends to identify which events best align with students wants and needs.

Leveraging technology at events is necessary to fully comprehending the modern college student. As an event organizer it’s your job to attract students to an event, keep them engaged, and evaluate if they’ve left satisfied. The more you know about your event attendees, the better prepared you’ll be to keep them happy and engaged for events to come.

They’re Modern College Students

Also known as the Millennial Generation, the Digital Natives Echo Boomers, Generation Y, Internet Generation, The Boomlets, and the Sunshine Generation (reference to a hopeful and inclusive generation).

There are specific characteristics that define today’s college students. Knowing the variety of college student populations can help student affairs professionals understand how to fulfill students wants and needs through programming on campus.

According to Howe and Strauss, experts on millennials, there are seven traits that outline traditional college students (18-22 year olds) along with graduate students (23-25 year olds). These traits include:

  1. Special: may come from a smaller family, received more attention and increased security, parents may be referred to as “helicopter parents” (due to constant hovering)
  2. Sheltered: family kept them closer to home with focus on safety, sports, and strong familial connections
  3. Confident: coaching throughout their life gave them an increased sense of support and self-confidence
  4. Team-oriented: may have grown up around a more diverse population of people and learned to be less “me” oriented.
  5. Conventional: resourceful, dynamic, and environmentally conscious
  6. Pressured: over scheduled, over-mentored, drive to succeed among peers (in part due to increased pressure to attend college) in order to have fulfilling life
  7. High-achieving: planners, future-oriented, focused on long-term success

The modern college student wants to feel empowered by their peers, faculty, and staff they work alongside throughout their college journey. With a range of personalities and characteristics in the millennial student population, brainstorming events that appeal to a diverse audience will make students feel an increased sense of belonging.

Paul Gordon Brown, a pioneer of researching college student digital identity dives into the important factors to consider when #SApro’s are connecting with students. 

One of the main points Paul brings up in his presentation is interpreting and understanding how to interact with college students online. How do you want to present yourself online? Does your department support social media? #SApros need to reflect on their own digital identity and online presence when engaging with the modern college student.

Students Want to Give Feedback.

Give students a voice about their student engagement experience. Expect this generation of students to help you problem solve and fill in your involvement gaps; give them the opportunity to give constructive and timely feedback.

Emphasizing the importance of feedback communicates that you take your time and energy seriously when connecting with students. Encourage obtaining feedback through Google docs, a hashtag on Twitter, or a Check I’m Here poll at the time of an event, instead of trying to track down attendees post-event.

Students Want the Power to Make Decisions.

Are you revamping your co-curricular programming model to meet the needs of the modern college student? Invite students to join the conversation to hear their perspective. Giving students the power to weigh-in and learn something new gives a sense of ownership to the process.

The importance of student involvement is reinforced with students collaborating with you on projects – give them additional opportunities to think of how to make changes in the community. Additionally, Kirsten McKinney dives into the power relationship that is often present between students and staff. She explains how to gain a broader perspective when evaluating programs and the importance of including students in campus decision-making:

“When students are interpreting the experiences of other students they have a lens and a perspective that’s very different often than those of us who are staff that are more removed. We may be interpreting that from our own student experience rather than the current student experience.” -Kirsten McKinney, Director of Student Affairs Information and Research Office, UCLA

Students need impactful programming opportunities.

Students aren’t looking to acquire things anymore, they’re looking for meaningful experiences. They don’t have to be on a large scale either. Events that link back to themes like service-learning, civic engagement, or creating strong connections with peers tend to fulfill their expectations.

Student leaders at The University of Rhode Island created a program as part of a “Happiness Challenge” week (with the help of organization SoulPancake) where students wrote letters to a person in their life that has made a significant impact on them. Students are more likely to remember a feeling or strong emotion they have associated with the experience more than anything else. It was a small program with a large potential on a student’s sense of belonging.

The Benefits of Knowing Your Students

Student affairs professionals benefit from understanding each incoming class for their institution and the students they serve on campus. The information about modern college students above only scratches the surface of the amount of rich material available to better the college student experience.

A campus engagement platform gives you the freedom to explore how to meet the needs of your students through data analytics and involvement tracking.

How do you engage and understand the modern college student? Tweet and share with us @CheckImHere!

Kayley Robsham

About the author: Kayley Robsham (she/hers) is a former Community Engagement Manager at Modern Campus Presence, the complete student engagement platform. Learn how we can help get your students involved.