Modern college and university students are faced with a difficult reality: simultaneously developing their tenuous sense of self while trying to establish their life goals in a society that is evolving at exponential speed. Although the millennial generation believes in the necessity of higher education in their professional development, they place more importance on the directly applicable real-world professional skills developed during their schooling rather than the subject matters themselves. Drop-out rates increase when these students are faced with challenges such as academic or career goal uncertainty, isolation and/or lack of integration. The most effective student retention tools are those that promote student contact and support with the institution and encourage student integration into social and academic communities, both within and outside of the classroom setting.
The Value of the Educational Experience:
Statistically speaking, college or university education leads professionals to maintain higher remuneration and lower unemployment rates . However, the relative importance of skill sets developed during the education process is undergoing a transition. Whereas previous generations placed significant weight on the subject matters being learned, millennials are placing more importance on the so-called “softer skills”. The 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey surveyed nearly eight thousand professionals born after 1982, they declared that the skills gained during their studies at higher educational institutions accounted for 42% of the skills they require to fulfill their long-term career objectives.
Interestingly, less importance is placed on academic knowledge itself and significant value is given to other skills such as professionalism (time-keeping, hard work, discipline), flexibility, and working with others as well as personal traits such as patience, maturity, and integrity. The act of attending college or university and learning what it means to live and contribute to a diverse professional network seems to account for the largest part of the skills required for millennials to succeed in their professional aspirations. This sentiment is echoed by Starbuck’s CEO Howard Schultz who explains in his book Pour Your Heart Into It 6, “It took years before I found my passion in life…But getting out of Brooklyn and earning a college degree gave me the courage to keep on dreaming.”
With such a large emphasis placed on the academic community experience, institutions must direct their focus to encourage the sentiment of belonging and facilitate peer support using modern and familiar tools for their budding millennials.
Creating an Accessible Support Network:
According to The Millennial Generation Research Review, the millennial generation is the greatest consumers and contributors of online content. They produce three times more online content and adopt new technologies two and a half times faster than any other generation. They rely profoundly on advice and recommendations from peers, more than experts, and they are constantly seeking their online network’s affirmation of their decisions. This is particularly important when considering that the degree of educational retention is greatly impacted by the quality and regularity of interactions with peers, institution professionals, and faculty members. It is through these caring interactions that students can grow and become aware of their talents and learn how to put them to use by establishing professional goals.
Put the Money Where the Students Are:
Where should educational institutions invest their resources to increase student retention? Most experts agree that the key lies in creating a feeling of community support by developing a forum that permits students to interact with their peers and the institution while having knowledge of, and easy access to, available resources. For millennials, this type of community is found as much online as it is in person. By integrating a mobile application to create an online community and unite all available student resources, educational institutions are creating a comfortable safe space for the modern student. When properly supported students can go on to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to become successful learners and ultimately successful member of the professional community.
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