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Starting the Year off Strong: MN Strong Start Visits

Each fall, College Possible Minnesota hosts Strong Start Visits for students at college campuses across the state. These visits help kick off the program year with community-building activities and an introduction to the college program. This year, Strong Start Visits have pivoted to online platforms, reflecting College Possible’s shift to virtual programming this fall.

“Despite having all our lives turned upside down, we can still build community with our students through virtual events like the Strong Start Visit!”

Heading off to college looks different for students this year, with campuses implementing a variety of learning models, including in-person, hybrid and online courses. For new students, the first weeks on campus (or virtually on campus in zoom classrooms) are important for building a sense of community and belonging with peers and the institution. Numerous studies have shown that developing a ‘sense of belonging’ in college helps increase student persistence through college toward graduation.1 Developing community is an important part of college and Strong Start Visits aim to supplement this process for College Possible students.

“This event is SO great — it reminds coaches and students why they invest energy in our program, and brings new college students into a welcoming College Possible community.”

Strong Start Visits are an opportunity for college students to meet their College Possible peers at their institution and get acquainted with their coach. During Strong Start Visits, students are introduced to the team of coaches and the program coordinator who will be supporting their institution: they learn about the expectations for the college program and begin to build relationships with a team they’ll interact with throughout the year. Virtual visits focus on community-building activities and students have the opportunity to enter one-on-one breakout rooms for specific questions with a coach.

Sarah Rost, a second year AmeriCorps college coach, reflected on her experience running the Strong Start Visit for Metro State University:

“Working as a tech connected coach, I spend most of my time typing messages on a screen or talking on the phone, so when the opportunity comes for me to spend face-to-face time with students, it’s hard not to be excited! I think this is especially true in this new virtual reality. Despite having all our lives turned upside down, we can still build community with our students through virtual events like the Strong Start Visit! This event is SO great — it reminds coaches and students why they invest energy in our program, and brings new college students into a welcoming College Possible community. It’s good to start a year of uncertainty off with positivity and new connections!”

 

Between Aug. 25 and Sept. 16, College Possible Minnesota hosted 15 visits with 13 schools and connected with nearly 80 students. Visits were held for College Possible cohorts at the following institutions: Augsburg University (2 visits), Century College, Concordia University – Moorhead, Concordia University – St. Paul, Hamline University, Gustavus Adolphus College, Minneapolis College, Metro State University, Minnesota State University – Mankato, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities (2 visits), University of Minnesota – Rochester, Saint Catherine University and Saint Paul College.

1. Strayhorn, T. L. (2019). College Students’ Sense of Belonging: A Key to Educational Success for All Students. New York, NY: Routledge.

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