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There's no one defining aspect of a career college that determines student success. Quality academics, flexible programs, a supportive learning environment and ample resources all help pave a path toward student achievement. And now, it's even more apparent how a strong sense of community can affect students. In fact, school spirit has been linked to higher academic performance and greater general happiness. But how do you generate school spirit without sports teams and events to rally spirit organically?

The School Spirit Effect

An online survey commissioned by Varsity Brands and conducted by Harris Poll1 asked 1,500 individuals (including high school students, parents and principals) about school pride. The goal of survey was to see how school spirit plays a role in academic performance, student confidence and community involvement.

The survey's research found that academic achievement and student happiness does indeed have a positive relationship to school spirit. Nearly 90 percent of surveyed principals believed building school spirit at their high school is important and closely tied to higher levels of academic achievement, and this spirit effect applies to colleges as well.

School spirit and opportunities for students to show pride and get involved foster a positive relationship between the student and the school. Students feel a connection and sense of community, which can help keep them on track toward reaching their goals. The entire community of students, faculty and administration are perceived as a team with a common purpose. Students proudly support their school, and the school supports their students' academic path toward success.

Here are three ways your career college can nurture this sense of connectedness and build school spirit.

1. Hold a Spirit Week

Spirit week is an opportunity for students to participate in activities with their peers, network with leadership and meet with faculty members. Such events can also reinvigorate students who may be stressed or need a boost in motivation. To plan a spirit week, designating each day with a theme and activities, such as:

  • Bring Your Family to School Day: Encourage students to invite their families to a school luncheon or dinner. They can give their family members a tour of campus and introduce them to classmates and instructors.
  • Alumni Day: Provide opportunities for students to interact with alumni, whether face-to-face or online. Ask alumni to share their personal success stories and advice.
  • Mingle and Mentor: Set up mini mixers where students and faculty can interact and build relationships. A roundtable-style activity is a great way for people to exchange Q&As, bond and find mentors.
  • Awards Ceremony: Celebrate student achievements with an awards ceremony. Accolades can give students a boost in confidence to keep reaching for their goals.

2. Build School Spirit at Your Graduation Ceremony

Your school's graduation ceremony offers another great opportunity to build school spirit while celebrating your students' accomplishments. Celebrate the graduates by playing a slideshow of students and publically acknowledging those with a specific GPA. Having a student-voted graduation speaker (or speakers) is another way to make students an even greater part of graduation and increase excitement leading up to the ceremony.

If possible, have someone take pictures and record video of the graduation. Record testimonials from students talking about their favorite experiences at your college along with advice for future students. These testimonials and pictures can be shared on social media, featured on your school's website, and shared with new students during orientation. This positive energy captured here can be used to build spirit and motivate students in years to come.

Finally, be sure to keep detailed contact records of your alumni and invite them back for the graduation. Consider hosting an alumni breakfast along with having a recent alumni speak to graduates as part of the ceremony. Not only is this a great way to keep your alumni connected with your school, but it can inspire both graduating and current students to see what alumni have gone on to accomplish thanks to the education they received at your school. Graduations already bring your school together, and promoting these activities provides a way to further instill a sense of spirit, pride and community.

3. Take to Social Media

Go to where your students go in their free time - social media. By engaging students in the digital space, you'll generate enthusiasm and help form an online community. Try simple messaging such as countdowns to graduation or encouragement for an exam. Facebook contests and Twitter giveaways also build student interest on social media. An engaging presence on Instagram is just as important; the photo-driven social network has an estimated 77.6 million U.S. users2, and it is especially popular among young people. Use Instagram to post inspirational quotes, promote a fun campus event or feature an outstanding student, faculty member or alumni.

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Resources: (1) Connection Between School Spirit and Student Achievement, Involvement, and Confidence (2) Filtered Photos Still Brands' Instagram Go-To