How to Get Incoming Freshman Excited About Recreation

University of Arkansas

Photo courtesy of the University of Arkansas

At the University of Arkansas, the campus rec department employs a number of techniques to get incoming freshman excited about recreation and aware of the available programs. Here, Jeremy Battjes, the assistant dean for administration and director of university recreation, shares his advice:

Social Media

Before you are able to meet new students on campus, social media is a great way to gain interaction. You can start with sharing “hype” posts about the offerings at your rec facility, outfitted with photos. Sharing on all platforms is important, but some forms of media suit students better than others. “Instagram seems to be the best way to share information and interact with students through direct messaging,” said Battjes. “Find ways to connect with students where they are and communicate with them.”

Volunteering at Move-In

The very first way to provide an in-person impression on new students is to help out as soon as they set foot on campus. Not only will they be appreciative of the help, but they will feel more familiar with you when they begin to venture out on campus and into your facility. “For the last several years, we have volunteered at move-in,” said Battjes. “This helps us start creating relationships with incoming students.”

Host an Event

Most rec departments host a type of “welcome to campus” event at the beginning of the semester. One way to up your reach is by partnering with other departments on campus. “This year we’ve intentionally partnered with housing and our on-campus dining contractor to target students in the residence hall,” said Battjes. “We’re hosting our event the week prior to classes beginning, as the large majority of students will be moved in.”

New Student Programs

New this year at the University of Arkansas is the option of a one-hour, for-credit class that meets a required university perspectives course. “We have themed our section ‘Healthy Hogs,’” described Battjes. “Curriculum focuses on exposure to collegiate recreation programs and facilities and will meet once per-week for 16 weeks.”

Additionally, the rec department facilitates a program for new student and family programs called Rock Camp. “This camp is three, four-day sections of students who come to learn Arkansas traditions, create a sense of community and an introduction to campus life,” said Battjes. “The program is facilitated by our outdoor staff who engage with several hundred incoming students over the summer.”

Follow-Up

While it is important to make an initial impression on new students and make them aware of your rec department offerings, it’s easy to let follow-up strategies fall aside. In addition to the for-credit course throughout the semester, Battjes also highlighted a targeted campaign to connect with students who come in one time and fail to return within two weeks.

“Our hope is that through a personalized invitation to return and connect with our staff that the student will return,” he elaborated. “We’ve also developed an intentional social media calendar and renewed opportunities to engage with students through social media contests and giveaways.”

Last Tips

When it comes to getting incoming freshman excited about campus rec, the main goal is to connect and communicate. “Learn how students prioritize their day and how you can work your way into their schedule,” said Battjes. “This demographic is constantly changing. Finding ways to meet them where they are will pay dividends and you should see engagement.”

Brittany Howard
Brittany is a staff writer at Peake Media. Reach her at brittany@peakemedia.com

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