Tips from Hanover College on driving first-year student engagement

Hanover College has an exceptional 80% student activation rate on Handshake. A big driver of their success is engaging first-year students.

Shaina Hackbarth, Assistant Director of Internships and Systems at Hanover College, is determined to help all her students realize that Handshake is a must-have resource. 

And she’s seen great success—80 percent of Hanover College students have an active Handshake profile. One of the primary drivers for such high student engagement is starting early with first-year students. 

Shaina shares her tips on how to successfully engage first-year students on Handshake. 

Keep it simple

First-year students are often overwhelmed during their initial months at college. Shaina recommends keeping the messaging simple and straightforward when engaging these students. 

When speaking with first-year students, she outlines three steps:

  • Login and activate their Handshake account
  • Complete the Onet Interest Profiler, a self-assessment that helps students discover the type of work they might find interesting. 
  • Schedule an appointment with the career center to discuss their assessment results and add these skills to their Handshake profile. It’s also a good opportunity to learn about the career center and how they can utilize its resources during their time on campus. 

Find your champions around campus

A good way to increase the number of touchpoints you have with students is to collaborate with as many campus stakeholders as possible.

Shaina has a strong relationship with the Student Success Office, which opened the door for her to participate in the First Year 101 courses, a requirement for all Hanover students. Shaina assigns students in the course to activate their Handshake accounts. 

Shaina also recommends reaching out to RAs in first-year dorm halls and peer advisors on how they can promote career services and Handshake. 

Department heads are another great channel. Regularly send internship and job opportunities that are relevant to their department and offer career resources that they can easily share with students. 

Make Handshake a “one-stop shop” for career resources

Students are inundated with resources on campus. To make Handshake stand out as a must-have, it’s important to brand Handshake as the “one-stop shop” for everything career-related. 

Drive students to Handshake to browse jobs and internships, register for events, make appointments, find alumni and other students in their major, and much more. With repeated exposure, students will start to think of Handshake whenever they think of jobs and career, which will lead them to use the platform more frequently.   

Looking ahead, Shaina also hopes to move on-campus employment onto Handshake and recruit student ambassadors to promote Handshake and career events and services. 

Want more best practices for student engagement? Check out some of our other case studies here.