People in crisis need to understand that you get it. As a first-generation student myself I understand that students facing an emotional crisis need to need to know that someone understands so any and all of your messaging must always begin not with the feature or the function of whatever service you have, but a demonstration of your understanding of the crisis they face and how they are feeling about it. That’s the trigger for them to reach out. When they feel you get it, they will.
Bring it to them
I’m a professor at Florida Atlantic University had I did a little experiment. I tried to imagine myself at 19 years of age, in crisis and thinking of leaving college. I wandered over to the student service area. Offices, counters, doors with titles and labels on them. Now on the surface, it is all good, but to a frightened student in crisis I thought this would be terrifying. Here’s the question: How can you reach out them, how can you create a process to reach them? Instead of them coming to you, what can you create that will connect in the moment?
Like a good marketer does, rethink how you deliver your service. Be “customer centric”. One college I spoke with actually relocated several key student success support staff to the library. They knew it was a more comfortable and open surrounding, much more accessible and allow students to feel comfortable in approaching advisory staff in a setting they are already visiting regularly.
We can make a difference to student retention by keeping the emotional motivation of the student at the top of the list when devising a student success strategy and in doing so, always remember the words of Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”