Student success: shared investment


Jill McEvoy

Empire State College
Endeavors contributor

When I left you last, I was preparing to embark on my journey back to graduate school. Just to refresh your memory, I have been out of school close to twenty years and was more than a little nervous to begin my studies as a 40 year old graduate student. To be perfectly honest the experience was a lot easier, personally than I had anticipated all due to the help of a very understanding group of admissions professionals and faculty that were ready to deal with a high-needs student like myself.

Faced with my first day as not only a graduate student, but a graduate student in an online program I met the day with anxiety and ambition as I logged into my class at 9:00am. For the first 2-3 weeks I was online every day in the discussion room as well as completing the assigned readings for the week and beginning the first of 4 papers due in the 9 week term. My husband thought I was overdoing it but this was unfamiliar territory to me and I needed to not only meet but conquer every challenge that came my way. I reached out to my professor about 2 weeks in just to see how I was doing and to make sure I was on the right track. She told me I was doing fine, great in fact even possibly that I was spending too much time on school and maybe I could relax a bit. I did not need to be online every day, every other day was fine and to feel free to check in with her at any time if I had questions or was feeling overwhelmed.

Wow, I thought. I had more feedback from my virtual professor after two weeks in her class than I had during my entire undergraduate career. And it only got better. While writing my first research paper, I contacted the online librarian for assistance. She was more than helpful and even directed me to an online seminar she was conducting on research methods for non-traditional students. That was absolutely perfect for me and met my needs. There have been so many technological advances since I was a student in the late '80s to early '90s the internet hadn't even been invented at that point…. I was unaware of all of the information and assistance that was available right at my fingertips. The staff at my schools library went out of their way to work with me, show me how to find information on my own and overall created a wonderful and exciting learning experience for me.

The first semester turned out to be really wonderful and not only did I earn an A in my first class, but was so impressed about the service that I received as a new student that I started to really think about the customer service that I provide on a daily basis my prospective students. I realized it is that little bit extra you provide, that additional step that you can take to help a student understand the process and increase their comfort level that makes the difference between enrolling in and staying with your program, or stopping out and finding another. Reaching out if you feel a student is in trouble, helping them gain confidence in the process and in what they are doing. I walked away from my class not only feeling like I had learned something academically but the experience enhanced me as a professional. I can take back to my desk my experiences as a student and the excellent assistance and service that I received and apply that to the prospective students and to my retention efforts to keep the students we currently have happy and in their program.

As far as my academic career, I just completed my second course and I scored another A. Not only is it the desire to earn my graduate degree that will keep me coming back, but now I feel invested in my school and proud to be a student there. That is the message that I would like my prospective students to take out into the world after having dealt with myself or any of the other professionals in my office. We need to let our students know that we also have an investment in their future. We can make a difference to our students and seeing it from their prospective is helping me to strive toward becoming a more compassionate and helpful admissions professional.