Today’s students, perhaps more than ever before, want to belong to communities in their schools. They want to feel connected and like they are part of something, whether it’s a club, a team, or simply a group of like-minded peers with whom they can connect and in whom they have a great deal of trust. Modern technology offers an always-connected approach that has the potential to be extremely beneficial in building those key relationships and helping students feel as though there is always someone they can reach out to, but in some cases, it can also serve to highlight those feelings of loneliness and that lack of belonging.
To many students, that sense of belonging and community is crucial–and that sense of community is part, not only of a student’s social development but also of overall learning and success.
Students who are part of communities are more likely to succeed in college.
Being part of a community is a key marker of student success, perhaps even more so than academic aptitude. Community helps breed academic success, from classroom communities to clubs and organizations. Each group a student belongs to serves a slightly different purpose and offers him support in a slightly different manner.
Students in a community can help one another find missing answers or approach challenges with confidence.
Students are often more confident asking questions of one another than they are asking questions of their instructors. They’ll send out a careful, quiet query to a classroom chat or turn to a peer for assistance with something long before they will schedule an appointment during office hours. Many students worry about taking up too much of a professor’s time or being a burden in the classroom. They don’t want questions, especially questions they might feel are “stupid,” to reflect on them later. With their peers, on the other hand, they can ask those questions with a higher degree of confidence, especially as they develop deeper relationships within the classroom community.
Communities can help drive accomplishments higher than any one person can accomplish alone.
When it comes to creative thinking and innovation, there’s nothing better for filling in the gaps than community. Simply put, creativity and innovation flow from the community. People with diverse backgrounds, different thinking patterns, and unique experiences can come together to solve problems that none of them could have managed in isolation. In the classroom, that means better projects, a more comprehensive understanding of the content, and even the potential for innovation that can go beyond the classroom to change students’ industries permanently.
Students who are part of an active community often have better mental health.
College students across the nation and even around the world report that mental health challenges, including depression and anxiety, have impacted their academic performance in some way. While those numbers peaked during the pandemic, it’s little wonder that many college students struggle with a variety of mental health challenges. They’re struggling with substance abuse. They feel unable to complete school due to their current mental health challenges. They see obstacles in front of them, rather than seeing potential solutions to those problems.
Solid friendships, communications, and connections can help improve overall mental health and make students feel more confident about the future.
Friendships naturally improve mental health.
People are not meant to live in isolation–and that goes for young people, students, perhaps more than for anyone else. Many of them have left high school and the friends they made there behind. They may be on their own for the first time. They’re struggling to navigate in a new, foreign world, unsure about what the future may bring or how long they can continue based on their current circumstances.
Friendships help build self-confidence. They give each student someone to “do things” with an excuse to get out of the dorm room and experience the full array of activities available on campus. Students who have friends are more likely to laugh, smile, and spend time engaging in activities they enjoy, rather than just getting by and doing the things that are necessary to get through the day. Overall, students who have strong friendships and connections are more likely to succeed and see better overall mental health than students who feel isolated and disconnected.
Friends are more likely to notice when mental health starts declining (and to push their friends to get help).
Students who are part of a tight-knit community will have a hard time letting their mental health deteriorate without someone noticing. Their friends will notice when they stop showing up for class, or changing out of their favorite sweats, or sleeping at normal times. They may notice advancing signs of anxiety or depression even before students realize the changes in themselves–and they’re more likely to push them to get the help they need.
Strong communities will also increase the odds that someone in the group will know what resources are available to provide help. Many times, colleges and universities have robust mental health clinics or counseling programs available to students, but not every student will be aware of the tools they have on hand. In a large group, however, the odds are better than someone will know about them–and that someone will help direct students who are struggling to a place where they can get the help they need.
Communities involvement can help students feel more connected with the campus as a whole.
Some students will spend their entire college careers feeling as though they are on the outside looking in. On a large campus, in particular, it’s easy to go through the motions: to show up, go to class, and do little else. Commuters may feel particularly disconnected, since they may lack some of the communication tools and connections available to students who live on campus.
Students who feel disconnected may not find out about campus events, from club meetings to social events, in time to make plans to attend. As the semester moves forward, they may be less likely to engage in those groups at all without a direct invitation from someone who is part of them, since they may feel that it will prove difficult to get started and get engaged so late in the game. They may, as their college years continue, become less likely to engage at all.
Students who are already part of a community, on the other hand, are more likely to feel connected to the college community as a whole. They know that someone will notice if they don’t show up for class, or if they don’t make it to that meeting they said they would attend. They know that they have someone to attend to things with. They’ll feel more confident in speaking up and sharing their ideas and more likely to try out something new, including the wide range of potential activities that the campus has to offer.
Student communities can help set the foundation for future successes.
Many of today’s students are highly focused on the future, whether they intend to pursue a career in teaching, medicine, or law. They know that there are many barriers to success in their way–many of them are higher and harder to overcome than any similar barriers faced by previous generations. They have their work cut out for them, and they start striving toward success from the moment they set foot on a college campus for the first time.
Classroom success is one key measure of students’ ability to achieve their goals, but it’s not the primary indicator. Socialization in college could help students build many of the vital skills and relationships they will need when they leave college behind. Through that socialization, students will start to build the relationships they will need to help get a foot in the door and launch their future careers. They will find connections and start to develop them.
They will also learn vital problem-solving skills that will help them when they move into their career fields and start to interact with colleagues in the office. A student who spends most of his academic career with his nose to the grindstone may not have the chance to work through relationship conflicts and other challenges through connection with peers in a lower-stakes environment. As a result, he may struggle in his professional life when those conflicts arise because he will lack a clear blueprint for how to navigate through them. A student who had strong relationships in his college years, on the other hand, may be more likely to successfully handle any challenges that arise when he moves into a professional environment.
Building student communities and connections is an ongoing challenge on many campuses. Fortunately, Pronto makes it easy. With Pronto, students have communication tools in their pockets that can allow them to connect with peers and professors across the campus in an instant. Can Pronto help solve the student community challenge on your campus and bring your students closer together? Contact us today for a free demonstration.