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Example Facilitator Instructions

*** Please note that these are example instructions and NOT the instructions you will use for participation. Once your school has selected the administration setting and sign in method, you will receive personalized school-specific instructions on the website ***

Dear Facilitator,

Thank you so much for partnering with us to bring Social-Belonging for College Students to students at your college! It will only take 30 minutes to deliver to your students and uses the latest evidence-based methods to positively affect students’ attitudes about college. To learn more about the program, you can visit perts.net/social-belonging.

Instructions on how to deliver this program are written below. On the day of the program, questions may come up, so we’ve also included handy troubleshooting and FAQ sections to address students’ concerns or computer woes. We created these instructions with the goal of making program delivery as easy as possible, so we hope you’ll take some time to carefully review these instructions. For additional support, your College liaison is [Liaison Name], [Liaison Email].

This document contains two sets of instructions:

Thank you again for working with us to bridge the gap between research and practice by translating research findings into practical solutions! Together we can support more students to thrive in college and achieve their true potential.

- The PERTS and CTC teams

Important Notes

In this document we provide instructions and sample language to use as you invite students to participate in this program. In addition, please keep the following considerations in mind as you interact with participating students to ensure this program is best able to support students:

When talking with students, DON’T emphasize that this program is meant to help them.

WHY? Doing so can actually interfere with the program’s ability to help students. Sometimes people get defensive when they are told something is meant to help them. They may feel insulted if they think others think they need help. They could become unduly skeptical, which could prevent them from taking in the key ideas of the program.

Suggested language: “This activity gives students the opportunity to learn more about students’ experiences coming to college and to share their own perspective on the transition. We hope to use your insights to help improve the transition for future students.”

If students ask why they should complete the writing activity, DO emphasize that they are being asked to complete it because your school wants to hear their feedback and know about them.

Suggested language: “As students currently in the transition to college, you know first-hand about the challenges you’re facing. We want to learn more from you and your classmates about what the transition to our campus is like. We hope to share your experiences with future students to help them with their transition to college. In addition, most students who have completed this activity in the past have told us that they enjoyed reading stories from students who have gone through the transition, and that they learned something from doing so.”

Instructions for Independent Completion Over Summer

Please review these instructions if your school plans to deliver the program to students over the summer to complete on their own, before they arrive on campus.

Instructions

At a high level, implementation will look as follows. This document will go in-depth about your options for each step.

  1. Decide how you’ll want to invite students to participate. There are a number of options available, and we encourage you to use a combination of invitation methods to increase the likelihood that students complete the module.
  2. Decide when you’ll begin inviting students to participate and what deadlines you’ll set. Typically we recommend schools begin reaching out to students at least a month before they’ll arrive on campus and set an initial deadline for participation at least two weeks prior to arrival. That way you can extend the deadline as needed, if response rates are lower than desired.
  3. Invite students to participate! Depending on what you chose in Step 1, this could mean sending email invitations, distributing a new student checklist that includes an invitation link, adding an invitation link to a routine online portal used by your students, and/or other methods used at your school. Most schools find that using a combination of multiple invitation methods results in the highest participation rates from students.
  4. Send reminder emails as needed until your school’s final deadline. Please coordinate with your college liaison for this program if you’re not sure when that date is. After that date, the program will no longer be accessible by anyone.

Invitation Methods

There are many ways schools have invited students to the Social-Belonging program in prior implementations. The following list is not mutually exclusive, and we have found in prior implementations that schools see the highest participation rates when using a combination of these methods to invite students:

Invitation Timeline

We recommend initiating communication to students at least a month before they arrive on campus—either for orientation or the first day of classes—and setting the initial deadline for at least 2 weeks before they arrive on campus. A suggested schedule of invitation milestones can be found below in Table 1. This suggested schedule is designed to have students participate in the program before they step foot on campus for fall term.

Table 1. Suggested invitation timeline.
Milestone Relative Date
If your school plans to include the program as part of a new student orientation checklist, dashboard, or other orientation document, please include links to the program in these platforms as soon as possible, ideally at the same time as when they are normally distributed.
Send first email invitation to students At least 1 month before students arrive on campus
Send email reminder to all students who have not yet completed the program 1 week before initial deadline
Initial deadline communicated to students At least 2 weeks before students arrive on campus (1 week before final deadline)
If needed: Extend deadline, send email reminder to all students who have not yet completed 1 week before final deadline
If needed: Last chance to complete, send email notification to all students who have not yet completed 2-3 days before final deadline
Final deadline At least 1 week before students arrive on campus
Students arrive on campus for new student orientation or first week of class.

Language and Tips: Embedded Invitation (e.g. Checklist, Online Dashboards, Printed Materials)

In previous implementations, schools have invited students to the program through orientation checklists for new students (either online or in print), in dashboards students routinely access (e.g., Blackboard, Moodle), in email newsletters to students, and in printed materials mailed to students over the summer. Generally, including the program in as many orientation materials as possible as a required or encouraged activity increases student participation.

If your school plans to embed the link to the Social-Belonging Program in an orientation checklist, an online portal, or other student-facing materials, we recommend:

Table 2. Sample invitation language for embedded invitations.
For Printed Materials

What is it like coming to ?

Coming to college is a major transition. See how current and former students describe their experience. Then share your thoughts and feelings about becoming a [NICKNAME FOR STUDENTS AT SCHOOL]. Your thoughts will help give future students a better idea of what to expect, helping to improve their transition!

Please complete the activity at comingtocollege.org using the participation code .

For Digital Materials (e.g. Checklist, Student Dashboard, or Email Newsletters)

What is it like coming to ?

See how current and former students describe their experience coming to college. Then share your thoughts and feelings about becoming a [NICKNAME FOR STUDENTS AT SCHOOL]. Your thoughts will help give future students a better idea of what to expect, helping to improve their transition! Please set aside 30 minutes to do this.

Please follow the link below to complete the activity:

comingtocollege.org/

Language and Tips: Email Invitation

In addition to other invitation methods (e.g., checklists, dashboards, printed materials) , we highly suggest sending students email invitations using the mail merge methods your institution uses most commonly. Emails are most effective when:

Email invitations should originate from the relevant office at your school (i.e., the office you specified in customizing the program materials in your Dashboard). Please refer to the Invitation Timeline section of this document for a suggested email timeline.

Here are some sample email invitations you can use. These include both the initial email invitation as well as subsequent follow-up reminders as needed. Please customize as needed for your school context, but make sure not to deviate from how the activity is described. The activity should be described to participating students as a way to learn more about coming to college, as an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings about the transition to college, and as an opportunity to help future students. The activity should NOT be described as an attempt to help, intervene, or experiment upon the participating students.

Table 3. Sample invitation language for email invitations.
Initial Email Invite

Subject: What is it like coming to ? activity

Dear <<Name>>,

Congratulations and welcome to ! You probably have lots of questions about what to expect.

What is it like to come to ? is an online activity where you’ll see stories from current and former students from a variety of colleges about their experiences coming to college. Then you’ll get to share your thoughts and feelings about becoming a [NICKNAME FOR STUDENTS AT YOUR SCHOOL]. Your thoughts will help give future students a better idea of what to expect and improve their transition to college!

Click here to start the activity!

We encourage you to complete the activity as soon as possible. The deadline is [INITIAL DEADLINE]. Please set aside about 30 minutes for completing the activity. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
<<Name>>
<<Title>>

First Reminder Email – Sent to only to non-responders

Subject: What is it like coming to ? activity

Dear <<Name>>,

Learn more about what to expect as you start at ! What is it like to come to ? is an online activity in which you see stories from current and former students from a variety of colleges about their experiences coming to college. You will also be asked about your thoughts and feelings about coming to to help improve the transition for future students.

Click here to start the activity!

Only [ONE WEEK] left! Please set aside 30 minutes to complete the activity.

Sincerely,
<<Name>>
<<Title>>

Deadline extended – Sent to only to non-responders

Subject: DEADLINE EXTENDED: What is it like coming to ? activity

Dear <<Name>>,

Recently you were invited to complete the online activity What is it like to come to ? This activity shares stories from current and former students from a variety of colleges about their transition to college.

Today is the original deadline to complete the activity, and we haven’t heard from you yet. Because students have found this activity useful and because the thoughts you share will help us improve the transition for future generations of [NICKNAME FOR STUDENTS AT YOUR SCHOOL], we have extended the deadline to [DATE OF EXTENSION].

Please set aside 30 minutes to complete the activity.

Click here to start the activity!

Your participation in this activity is very important to us, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
<<Name>>
<<Title>>

Last chance – Sent to only to non-responders

Subject: LAST CHANCE: What is it like coming to ? activity

Dear <<Name>>,

Today is your last chance to complete the What is it like to come to ? activity. On average, the activity has been taking your classmates less than half an hour. We hope you can make a little bit of time today to complete the activity and share your thoughts about coming to .

What is it like to come to ?

We hope to hear from you by the end of the day.

Sincerely,
<<Name>>
<<Title>>

Response Rate Strategies

Your PERTS Dashboard includes real-time tracking of how many students are participating in the program. While response rates are a helpful indicator of how effective your invitation methods are, they also vary based on other factors. For instance, we find that smaller schools often find it easier to reach a larger proportion of their students than larger schools. It may be helpful to use typical response rates to campus-wide initiatives at your school as a reference point for determining if your response rate is high, low, or what you would expect.

Response Rate Too Low

If you notice your response rates are significantly lower than you expect relative to how long the program has been available to students, you may consider adding additional invitation methods or increasing the degree of importance you communicate in your invitations (e.g., “Your participation in this activity is very important to us”).

Extended Deadline and Last Chance Emails

We recommend setting the initial deadline communicated to students at least 15 days prior to students arrival on campus (see Table 1. Suggested invitation timeline). When you reach that initial deadline, you can review your current completion rate and choose to extend the deadline by an extra week if you feel your response rates are low. We have found that “deadline extended” and “last chance” emails can be effective in boosting participation rates.

Instructions for Supervised Completion During Orientation Week

Please review these instructions if your school plans to deliver the program during in-person, supervised sessions during new student orientation, while students are on campus.

Instructions

Step 1

Please schedule a time to give students access to computers with an Internet connection - either by bringing them to a computer lab or by requesting a laptop cart.

Please keep in mind that the program takes 30 minutes for students to complete.

Step 2

Obtain a student roster with student IDs. Students will need to enter their ID numbers during the activity, and some may not remember them. Please verify that each student has their ID number, and look up IDs with your roster if needed.

Step 3

Please read the following script to students before they begin.

“As a part of [SCHOOL TITLE FOR NEW STUDENT ORIENTATION], we would like you to complete the ‘What is it like coming to ?’ online activity. This is an activity that all incoming first-year students at are being asked to complete before they start classes in the fall. Because we think that this is a really useful activity for students to complete, we are offering it as a part of your orientation.

“The activity will share stories from current and former college students describing what their experience coming to college was like. You will have a chance to share your own thoughts and experiences about coming to to help improve the transition to college for future students.

“It will take about 30 minutes to complete the activity. Please read the instructions carefully and do your best to answer all of the questions to the best of your ability. It is very important that you not talk to each other or look at each other’s answers, as that would be a violation of other students’ privacy.

“I will not see any of your responses, and your responses will not be linked to your name or any other information that could be used to figure out who you are. None of your instructors or anyone at our college will know how you answer specific questions. But based on what you say, we will learn about things we can do to make the transition to college better for future students.

Step 4

Write the website address and the participation code where all your students can see it. If this is not possible, you may want to make cards with this information on it to hand out to your students. It is important to not let students see the website address and participation code until you read the script above so that they pay attention while you are introducing the program.

Please read the following:

“Now open your browser and please go to comingtocollege.org. Then enter the phrase , and follow the on-screen instructions. Please be aware that as you move through the program, you may want to go back to a previous question. If so, do not use the back arrow on the browser. Instead, use the ‘Go Back’ link in the upper left corner, just above the questions. Please begin.

Step 5

Ten minutes before students need to finish, tell them how much time is remaining and that it is okay if they do not have the time to finish everything.

“We have about ten minutes remaining for the activity. Please continue with the activity, but do not rush. It is okay if you do not have time to finish everything.

Step 6

At the end of the activity, ask your students to log out by closing their browser window.

“We have reached the end of the session. It’s okay if you are not totally done with the activity, just close the browser. You can complete the activity in your own time. To complete the activity later, please go to comingtocollege.org, enter the code , and type in your student ID. The website should bring you back to the page you left off at. Please take note of the website and code now. Thank you. The information you have provided may be used to improve students’ experiences here and at other schools as well.

Troubleshooting

We work hard to minimize the technical problems, but sometimes issues come up. Here are some problems students have experienced in the past and the best ways to solve them.

Error Message: Confirm Form Resubmission

Problem: A student clicked the back button on the browser.
Solution: Click the “reload” or “refresh” button. You may also need to click “confirm” or “continue.”

Closed Page

Problem: A student closed the browser window.
Solution: Tell the student to go to the website and sign in again, just like they did the first time. The program will continue where the student left off.

Warning Message or Connection Expired Message

Problem: A student's screen says that the connection expired or a similar warning.
Solution: Click the “reload” or “refresh” button.

Lost Location

Problem: The survey restarted from the beginning.
Solution: Tell the student to skip up to the part where they left off. The answers the student previously provided have been saved, but the server lost the page they were on for network reasons.

Note: Some pages may not allow students to advance until a certain amount of time (about 5 seconds) has passed.

Frequently Asked Student Questions and Responses

If you have a question that is not answered here, please reach out to the appropriate contact below.