Students develop three main types of connections during their educational journey: connections with their peers, their faculty, and the school as a whole. Each of these three types of connections feeds a larger sense of social well-being. Traditionally, these things have largely been considered in terms of social engagement: is that first-time freshman living on campus attending events and building relationships with their classmates?
While this is certainly one way to measure social well-being for students, the increasing diversity of students in higher education requires some deeper digging.
Not all students are looking for the same kinds of relationships in order to feel satisfied with their social well-being during their educational journey. Because of this, paying close attention to a student’s perception of their social well- being becomes much more valuable in assessing the health of that student. A student who has an established social base on and off campus might not need the same level of care as, for example, a first-generation student who may need some guidance in finding ways to connect in the collegiate landscape.
Social well-being is not just about what kinds of friendships a student makes. It’s also about whether the student considers themselves a valued member of the school in a larger sense. Are they making connections with faculty in the ways that they hoped? Do they feel cared for and “seen” by the institution? Are their contributions — both inside and outside the classroom — seen as valuable and meaningful?
These factors are certainly not as easy to measure as something like event attendance, but they get closer to the heart of what social well-being in an educational community is really all about.
The major questions we can help students ask themselves to assess their social well- being are:
1. Do I have connections that match what I’m looking for? This question can be further broken down into three categories:
- Am I connecting with my peers in meaningful ways? Are there opportunities to find social, academic and professional connections among my peers?
- Am I building relationships with faculty that fit with my expectations? Am I taking classes from faculty members who are experts in my field of choice? Are there adequate opportunities for me to connect with them for both academic support and professional guidance?
- Am I connected to my school? Am I finding adequate places to get involved? Am I finding sufficient support for my journey?
2. Do I feel valued in my community and in my contributions?
This question extrapolates on the kind and quality of the connections formed in each of the three major categories. Belonging is about feeling like you matter, not just that there are events you can attend or office hours that have been made available.
Stay tuned for part four, or download the full eBook below!