Increasing enrollment numbers is a high priority for most institutions. Colleges and universities are racing to stay unique and relevant in a highly competitive marketplace in order to attract new students and to retain current ones. As if this weren’t enough, institutions are faced with rising costs and smaller budgets. As campus leaders look for ways to leverage their resources and still accomplish their enrollment and growth goals, one viable strategy is to recognize the role that facilities have on student attraction and retention.
First Impressions Aren't Everything, But They Mean a Lot
First impressions are an incredibly effective selling point for prospective students. Undeniably, students are seeking environments where they can imagine themselves studying, learning, collaborating, and moving towards success.
Looking back to a 2013 study of 165,743 first-time students, respondents reported that “A visit to this campus” was the sixth most selected reason (out of 23 choices) in deciding to attend the particular institution.
Students want to be able to envision themselves on the campus for their post high school studies. They pay attention to whether or not they feel comfortable in the places where they will spend most of their college time. This includes the library, student center, laboratories, and other buildings.
This becomes even more important if students already have an area of focus or major. A dynamic design of the outside of a building and an engaging layout inside are fundamental in the student experience during their initial campus visit and later while enrolled at the institution, both in terms of helping potential students feel at home as well as academically supporting enrolled students.
It’s not enough to simply create comfortable areas for students. Just as important, is designing specific spaces that support students’ academic success. Areas conducive to both learning and interacting with other students and faculty encourage behaviors that help students become more immersed and engaged in their studies and stay motivated to remain at the institution until graduation.
Stand Out from the Competition
Discovering effective ways for your institution to stand out from the crowd is essential for attracting and retaining students. This involves more than figuring out how to spend the available funds. To truly stand out from the rest, you must also determine how the student experience can be enhanced based on space, landscape, facility, and other such considerations.
By understanding an institution’s real value proposition and incorporating those strategic factors into the redesign of existing space or building new facilities, colleges and universities will gain a competitive edge as they seek to attract and retain students.