Bringing a Digital Community to Life for Duke University’s Class of 2026

April 2023 — By BrightCrowd

For many incoming students, college is both an exciting and daunting adventure. Excited to leave home, meet new people, and experience new opportunities, these students eagerly look forward to arriving on campus for the first time. However, some students experience fear of the unknown – they wonder how they’ll adjust to their new surroundings. Will they fit in with peers? Will they like their major? Will they feel part of a community?

Although most students are academically prepared for college, nearly 60% feel they aren’t emotionally ready to begin the next chapter of their life.

For incoming college students, it’s imperative that they have the ability to develop meaningful relationships with others – creating networks or groups of friends can positively impact their mental and emotional well-being. Creating a sense of belonging in schools early leads to greater academic success and higher levels of personal satisfaction for students, especially at such a pivotal time. While overall student engagement is key, freshman student engagement is even more crucial, with about one-quarter of freshman students dropping out of school before their second year.

So how do colleges and universities welcome students at the start of their freshman year, and aid them in building connections? They implement simple yet impactful initiatives centered around increasing engagement and creating camaraderie.

Embracing the Use of Technology

It’s no secret that technology is literally growing at an exponential rate. The mere premise of this is both exciting and terrifying. On one hand, people have new and innovative ways to interact with one another, learn about community events and gatherings, and gain valuable information. However, on the other hand, both students and universities alike may not know exactly where to turn or what technologies are even worth implementing, especially when it comes to building connections among students.

With so many students already on social media, for example, schools initially felt creating a Facebook Group would be a great way for students to meet. However, many students were hesitant to join the groups let alone the conversations, knowing the university would then have access to their personal profiles, photos, and whereabouts. Not to mention these social media groups added a huge burden to school staff who had to constantly invite, accept, and monitor the groups.

With a simple yet effective tool like BrightCrowd, schools can create digital welcome books that inspire students to start building connections and get excited about campus involvement before arriving for their first day. Schools also benefit by learning more about their newest students and bringing what’s typically a surface-level digital community to life without any added to-do lists or significant time investments. That’s exactly why Duke University launched a BrightCrowd book for their incoming freshman.

Welcoming Duke University’s Class of 2026

With roughly 6,500 undergraduate students, Duke University wanted to make a clear statement to students getting ready to start their first year – we care about each one of you individually. To welcome students and promote college student engagement, the iconic university implemented a digital welcome book for the incoming class of 2026 to bring diverse students together in meaningful ways before the start of the school year.

Within a matter of minutes, the university was able to put together a customized digital scrapbook for all its incoming first-year students. Participants created pages that answered questions such as:

  • What is your major or desired course of study?
  • Where will you be living during the year?
  • Why did you choose to go to Duke?
  • Do you have any social media handles?
  • What are some of your hobbies and interests?
  • If you were a superhero, what would you be known for?

Participants were able to introduce themselves in an authentic manner and meet their fellow peers in a private, welcoming environment. Of the 1,812 students invited to participate in the book, 70% created their own unique profile!

Building Connections through BrightCrowd

So, why is it important to build strong connections? When students feel connected to their college, they’re more likely to engage in activities, demonstrate school spirit, and create long-lasting relationships with other students and the university. Not only does this ensure academic success and campus involvement during a student’s time at the university, but it helps build future leaders and engaged alumni.

BrightCrowd helps colleges and universities create a unique opportunity for incoming first-year students. Given the ability to learn more about their peers prior to the beginning of the semester, students feel more at ease as they transition into college life.

Contact BrightCrowd today to learn how you can help students establish meaningful relationships and create a sense of community before ever stepping on campus.