* This post was edited from one originally posted on The Student Affairs Hub.
As the semester rolls on, I was thinking about how colleges and universities are a unique environment where there are a multitude of offices, departments, groups, and relationships that are hard to find elsewhere. These connections can last a lifetime and make a huge difference in a student's life. While some pathways like Greek organizations may be more common, there are plenty of other avenues to make connections on campus for your students that can be just as impactful, if not more so depending on what the student is interested in. I'd like to outline some of the ones I feel would be useful to professionals out there to recommend to their students or for students to take the initiative to do themselves.
Meeting new people can be tough, but sites like meetup.com, Eventbrite, and/or the myriad of Facebook groups all help to organize hangouts all across the country based on common interests like hiking, gaming, reading, or any other plethora of hobbies. I've found them to be a great way to meet new people in my community that are into what I enjoy. For students, this could be helpful to find other like-minded individuals in their local area that lead to possible job or volunteer opportunities. At the very least, it is a social involvement that is bound to have local staff and faculty members (as well as alumni) present, which leads into my next points.
The graduates of any institution end up all over the country and in all sorts of different industries. They owe a lot of their success to their time at their alma mater, and are proud of where they got their degree. I can speak for myself and say that this is all very true. I can't make myself physically available and present at my alma mater so I make sure to support them financially. The Alumni Relations offices at any institution are going to have hundreds if not thousands of local connections with passionate individuals looking to connect with current or prospective students. This is a ripe pathway to great mentoring relationships which can lead to any number of other opportunities.
While a lot of powerful, high-impact learning happens outside the classroom, I'd be foolish if I didn't mention the importance strong relationships with faculty can play as well. Students (or at least most of them) go to college to get their degree. They do this by attending classes taught by faculty. Unfortunately, it seems nowadays the relationship in the classroom is purely transactional. Faculty are a wealth of knowledge and experience that can be transformative to a student. Their position grants them a lot of influence and power as well as access to a lot of resources and opportunities. Faculty can give students engaging experiential learning opportunities through research or a being a teaching assistant. At the very worst, faculty can serve as their own sort of mentors for the students who find themselves drawn to academia.
I encourage you to think outside the box when looking to make connections with your community. There are some tried and true options out there but there are also so many more to choose from that may better fit your students' needs. In the end, it's these important connections we make for our students that help them stay and also help them succeed at college as well as beyond.