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What if the First Year of College was more like Job Onboarding?

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I’ve been considering good onboarding quite a bit lately, prompted by the wonderful video I shared from RAPT Media as well as this post from the Wistia team on how they stay connected through video.  And that got me to thinking, what if that first year of college, or at least the first semester, was treated more like a great onboarding program? What might that look like?

Even Before You Start

One of the hallmarks of great onboarding is the fact that it starts even before you’ve started the job; in fact, it can start even before you’ve applied. The Deloitte video illustrates the way that company chooses to showcase its values and culture. If you see that video as a potential employee and you don’t get the humor or think that the workplace sounds fun, well then, you know its not for you.

How a College might Use It

A college as a whole or a particular school might create an interactive video to show off how it operates, who the professors are, and what it values. Even before applying to the college or the program, the student gets a feel for what it might be like to be there.

Communicate Early

Another thing that good onboarding does is include the new hire in team updates and other communications even before the official first day so they can both come in informed and they have the opportunity to ask questions and contribute ideas. This opens up avenues for true social learning (asking questions) by connecting the new hire to their team mates.

How a College might Use It

During the first week or so, the college might set up a personalized email campaign for new students. Day 1 might have an interactive map to help them find their way around. Day 2 might introduce them to the library and how to use its resources. And the whole kickoff week might culminate in a scheduled meeting with their advisor or even a larger social event. Of course, email wouldn’t be the only option. Such a plan might be supplemented with face-to-face events or a buddy system to help new students get oriented.

Performance Support

It’s a bit of a buzzword right now but performance support, when done right, is awesome at helping new hires be successful. Performance support includes making sure that new hires have a good sense of what is expected of them, that they have access to job aids and/or people that help walk them through paperwork, processes, etc., and that, where appropriate, they also have access to training to help them practice completing their job tasks. Furthermore, performance support fosters communication between the new hire and the supervisor with regular check-ins and feedback (both ways) so that they both remain on the same page and tackle any budding problems early on.

How a College might Use It

Of all of the ideas I’ve explored, I’d say this one was probably the most important. Even as a freshman, it’s so important to continue to be planning for your future and revising that plan as often as necessary. Though my college experience was really great, I’d say one of the things I most regret not having had was access to information about creating a real portfolio for myself, broadening my view of possible career avenues, advice on other types of classes that could enhance my skill set (coding!), and information about internships. There was just so much I didn’t know. Performance support throughout my college career, and perhaps especially during that first year, would have supported me in these things.

I would imagine performance support in college as consisting of regular check-ins with one’s advisor, the RA in the dorm, and any career career center the college has. It’s not an every week affair and and checking in with the RA, for example, doesn’t have to be meticulously scheduled but performance support like this would go a long way towards helping students to succeed in college and at a career.

What do you think? Could a college or university offer first years a better “onboarding” experience? What might it look like?

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