In today’s educational climate any tactic that can be used to help improve student success or increase retention should be considered by every institution. It is even better when the approaches are not difficult to implement, do not take much time, or do not cost a lot of money. While many colleges are understaffed and underfunded and may not have the resources available to implement all of the retention best practices, one best practice that student services professionals should always consider is the importance of developing rapport with their students.
Developing rapport is an essential skill that a student service professional should embody. Taking time to get to know your students and develop rapport are imperative steps during the first few interactions with the student in order to establish the relationship and trust needed for productive and effective interactions in the future. Students are more likely to open up and provide helpful information about themselves and their situation when feeling comfortable with you.
Establishing rapport begins with creating interest by developing a conversation and finding common ground with the student. It may be that you share a favorite sports team, that you both like cats, or that you come from the same hometown. Regardless of the similarities and commonalities, the first step is to find something that you have in common.
However, it is important to understand that the conversation is about the student, not about you. A student services professional cannot be selfish, in fact, you must be able to listen intently and center the conversation on the student. While it is sometimes necessary to share some information about yourself to identify that common ground, you should always keep the student and their needs as the focus of the discussion.
It is also important for your students to know that you sincerely care about their well-being and that you want them to succeed. It's important for you to be able to get to know them well enough so that you can come to understand their hopes and dreams, and for you to be able to convey to your students that you are there to help them achieve those goals.
Here are fifteen tips to help ensure successful rapport building with your students:
- Focus on the student
- Be positive throughout your conversation
- Demonstrate empathy and respect
- Actively listen and create a safe conversation for the student
- Be genuine and natural in your conversation
- Make sure to avoid judgment
- Make a connection to the student
- Be consistent and follow through
- Relate to the student
- Highlight strengths and interests
- Ask the student’s perspective
- Encourage open and honest discussions
- Empower the student and involve them in decisions
- Make sure to use appropriate questioning techniques in order to elicit the appropriate responses
- In-person, use appropriate eye contact, body language, and gestures
This simple task of building rapport can have a major impact on ensuring successful relationships with students. Advisors or Success Coaches can build rapport with the student, gain their trust and develop a true relationship that allows for enhanced student engagement. The better the relationship with the student, the more likely the students will share the necessary information to help build strategies to overcome the obstacles that get in their way. Allowing this advisor-to-student relationship to develop can help increase the chances for the student to be successful. Spending time building rapport, earning trust, and developing relationships with students will help you and your institution to impact student retention.
The Watermark Student Success & Engagement (formerly Aviso Coaching) software platform can help track the important interactions between advisors and students and much, much more. To learn more about the other features and tools available in Watermark Student Success & Engagement and how you can help improve retention at your institution, schedule a demo with us.
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