As anyone involved in higher education knows, the college experience is about much more than attending classes. Sure, earning those credits and learning about your major matters to your career. But campus life becomes an experience that is just as important—and just as formative—for students to build lifelong connections and become their best selves. That, in turn, requires a strategic effort by institutions to drive community education for their students. It’s not enough to simply let students know about the student organizations on campus. Instead, a strategic effort to prioritize campus life for community integration is crucial to achieving true student-centeredness and success.
Getting there takes time, but it’s far from impossible. This guide can help college administrators at any level understand not just the necessity of strategic community integration but also how groups and events that already exist on your campus can help you (and your students) achieve those goals.
The Importance of Community Integration for College Students
Saying that engaging your students in your campus community benefits them is not just a general statement. In fact, plenty of academic studies and surveys have drawn the same conclusions.
That starts with a Gallup survey in 2016. It found that students who actively participated in activities outside the classroom became 1.4 more likely to thrive in their lives and 1.8 more likely to thrive in their careers specifically. A research study by Ohio State University got more specific, finding that students with active community integration:
- Were more likely to receive good grades
- Showed more active brain development
- Showed improved psychological well-being
- Improved their leadership skills
- Enhanced their multicultural awareness
Moreover, when employers reviewed fake resumes of undergraduate students that differed only in how involved in on-campus activities they were, researchers discovered:
“Employers rated the students that had been at least minimally involved in co-curricular activities as more hireable than those who were not involved at all. Employers rated highly-involved students as more career ready than minimally-involved or uninvolved students.”
Participating in campus life for community education is becoming especially vital in a post-COVID environment. Students have become less likely to engage with events, organizations, and co-curricular opportunities around them. In fact, according to one study, students with higher engagement scores became more motivated learners. Ultimately, they’re more likely to be high-level academic achievers.
6 Benefits of Prioritizing Campus Life for Community Integration
Academic studies and surveys, in other words, tend to agree strongly. Involvement in campus activities fosters community connections. It also brings a multitude of benefits for students engaging in this part of college life. On a broader level, this type of co-curricular engagement comes with five benefits for students who embrace it:
- A stronger sense of belonging. This can prevent feelings of isolation and foster friendships that can get students through college and last a lifetime.
- Paradoxically, a stronger sense of individuality. Students get to pursue activities that match or enhance their sense of self and that they might not have been able to pursue prior to college.
- Leadership opportunities. These not only provide practical experience for students but also act as core resume builders upon graduation.
- The ability to reduce stress by finding alternative, balancing activities during times when academic pressures may simply get too much.
- A better perception of both physical and mental safety on campus. Students have a network to build on and draw from.
- Improved community relations. Students more regularly participate in community service and other activities that can improve town-gown relations.
For colleges and universities, these benefits are important to keep in mind. Each one helps foster more successful students, ultimately fulfilling the institution’s academic mission. Moreover, benefits like a safer campus and community integration even beyond campus borders also carry direct advantages for colleges and universities.
5 Campus Life Opportunities to Drive Community Integration
Those are the benefits of students engaged in campus life. Of course, as with any effort to help students succeed, the how is just as important as the why. Fortunately, institutions of all sizes and across the spectrum tend to have the opportunities in place already to help these students succeed. These are some of the most important opportunities to drive community integration.
Student Clubs and Organizations
Student organizations have long been the foundation of campus life. Typically organized around interests that range from sailing to anime and fencing to stepping, these clubs offer core opportunities for students to pursue what makes them happy without the stress of the next exam or academic presentation having to get to them.
Clubs and organizations, of course, enhance community integration only if they’re active. Also, your larger student body has to know two things about them:
- What you offer
- How to start their own if you don’t offer them
Clear and obvious communication is essential, from regular club fairs to an accurate digital directory that makes it easy for students to join and organize themselves around their interests.
Club and Intramural Sports
One type of club, in particular, deserves further consideration when it comes to campus life and community integration: sports. On many college campuses, club sports have taken on a major role beyond weekly meetings or pick-up games. National championships and a fervent alum base are common, especially for sports (like rugby) that don’t always get varsity consideration.
And then there are intramurals, which are much more in the casual pick-up vein mentioned above. But whether you highlight club or intramural athletic opportunities, the same basic truth remains. Students who get together to perform and enjoy their favorite sports will form tight bonds. They will immediately feel more integrated into your community as a whole.
Greek Life and Cultural Organizations
Going one step beyond clubs and organization is Greek life, or the ability to join a fraternity or sorority to live with and spend most of your time with. It’s not just interest-based. It’s a more comprehensive change to daily life. In that way, it’s also closely related to cultural and religious organizations like campus ministry, which tend to draw tight-knit communities of students.
Greek life has faced plenty of controversy in recent years, but its benefits of community, alum support, and general involvement are difficult to ignore. Service-based groups, especially, can greatly impact if students feel welcomed and involved from the moment they enroll at your institution and step onto campus for the first time.
Varsity Sports and Fan Culture
It’s true: only a small portion of your student body will participate in varsity sports. For most colleges and universities, that number likely ranges between 5% and 20%.
But talk to any admissions counselor, and they will tell you just how interested prospective students are in these varsity sports. Their interest may never turn into an athletic scholarship. But their chances of remaining involved–from organizing the student section at basketball events to joining the cheerleading club or marching band–increase drastically.
Above all, the active promotion of and participation in both your varsity sports and the fan culture around it can do wonders for school spirit. Your community as a whole will begin to feel more tight-knit. This builds a more exciting atmosphere in which all students bond by rooting for the same teams and players.
Finally, and perhaps most obviously, active participation in campus events can do wonders for students in increasing their community integration. Whether it’s attending gallery openings from art students or going to see a comedian or the big homecoming concert, these campus events allow even students who don’t want to commit to long-term activities like clubs or sports to become an active part of the community.
This is where your institution’s activities programming board becomes crucial. Usually student-run, it might need some guidance and resources to host events that students across campus want to attend every semester. Funding for larger acts may be necessary, but even allowing students on the board to use your communications channels to spread the word can be an immense help.
How Your Digital Tools Can Help Students With Community Integration
At its best, campus life is more than just an accident or nice to have. From broad events to Greek life and student clubs, it’s an infrastructure designed to engage all types of students at every level, maximizing their chances of integrating with the broader campus community.
To get there, you’ll need to put the right tools in place. Communication is only part of the equation, but it does play an important role. A centralized and intuitive college events calendar, for example, can make it easy for student groups to promote their events and increase participation, just as an interactive campus map can help event organizers make sure audiences always find their way to the right spot.
It’s about strategic, multi-channel communication with your students. That’s where Concept3D comes in, thanks to map and calendar solutions that are tailor-made for higher ed institutions looking to embrace, enhance, and communicate their campus life. Ready to learn more? Contact us today to start the conversation.