How to Retain Students with User-Generated Content

Student-generated contentYour college has tried everything from topical first-year writing courses to tutoring centers open all hours of the night. And more students than you care to admit still drop out after that first year. You’re not alone.

An Inside Higher Ed article examining the 12 research-based factors that cause students to drop out notes poor retention rate as one of the most serious problems universities face. While some students genuinely don’t fit the first school they choose, you don’t want them to leave simply because of “disengagement from the university environment” or “impaired self-efficacy and resilience.” Students who aren’t connected can get connected, and those who lose self-assurance can believe in themselves again. And you should be there to help.

Students are all over the Internet; it’s the place to reach the disconnected ones, but posting images of your mascot around campus and your latest blog post will never be enough. You can create real community that makes students want to stay by letting them take over some of your content. Students want relationship, and the strongest friendships they’ll build in college are likely with their peers. Follow these tips to learn how to retain students by empowering connection:

Challenge Students to Create

While your students are already putting content out there on their own, it’s up to you to get it in front of their peers. Try these options on all of your social channels to find where your audience is most active:

  • Promote the usage of a hashtag.
  • Re-post student interactions from your university’s accounts.
  • Host contests on social media to receive student feedback.

Remember that all of the student-generated content you engage with should be quality; you want their peers to actually care. Those lonely freshmen need friends who understand them. And that discouraged student needs to know that there is a path for him. Challenge students to create that community they’re all searching for:

  • Ask them to write guest blog posts about their favorite classes and campus activities. This can be especially useful for helping freshmen connect with others going through similar transitions.
  • Ask professors to offer extra credit to students who help you write content. Writing for the university is great exposure for students, but sometimes they need extra motivation. Your school’s writing and marketing departments are likely to get on board.
  • Offer internships to students to help you promote the school via social media and your website. The students know how to communicate effectively with their peers; why not use their insights and help them develop professional skills?

Do you have ideas for user-generated content and improving retention rates? Share them in the comments!


There’s power in 1:1 messaging across the student life cycle. See how it influences student recruitment, retention and alumni engagement in our free guide for higher-ed marketers.

Student Life Cycle Nurturing

About Francesca Luppino

Francesca Luppino is a Content Strategist at Fathom. She joined Fathom in 2012 after graduating from Hiram College, where she studied English and communication. She develops and implements content marketing strategies primarily for the Education vertical. Francesca’s expertise covers on-site and off-site content, blogs, social media, SEO, guides and large downloads, and creative content strategy. She uses her passion for education to deliver engaging, conversion-based content for clients.

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