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A 6:00AM Student Meeting?! What’s Wrong With You?!

October 31, 2018 9:26 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

By: Zach Osborne, Menlo College

I, like most of us, have long struggled with how to convince, entice, cajole, and/or compel students to attend programming, both required and optional. I’ve heard over and over the mantra ‘meet them where they are’, and I recently stumbled on something in this vein that I would never have predicted to be effective: The 6:00AM Meeting.

Let me first say that I’m an early riser. Like really early. If you’re not an early riser, that’s okay – the principle behind my story still applies – just replace the AM with PM if 6:00AM make you nervous.

In my current role, I’m responsible for leading a large-scale experiential learning program. Like many of us with large-scale programs, I’ve found that it’s very efficient and generally effective to hold group meetings at the beginning of a cycle to share the common info: dates, general tips for finding internships/co-ops, institutional policies, etc…  a few times rather than covering it individually with each student.

To this end, I require that all students on the path toward an internship attend one of my Internship Information Sessions early in the fall semester of the academic year before the summer of their internship – this ensures they have what they need before the first employers start to recruit for their summer intern cohorts.

The challenge that I had was that I would offer five or six instances of my Info Session at various days and times, and when the dust would settle after the final session – I would still have a healthy population of students in the summer internship group who had not attended a session. What to do, what to do?!

Last year, fueled by desperation and frustration, I thought, “Well, if they can’t attend one of the sessions I’m offering during ‘normal’ days and times, let’s leave the box behind and offer one session at a totally bizarre time – I don’t know, like Tuesday at 6:00AM.“

Quick quiz: How many students attended Zach’s ill-advised 6:00AM Info Session:

A)  0 – Zach had a lonely breakfast and talked to himself for a couple of hours that morning

B)  5 – Not worth doing again for the turn out

C) 13 – It was a moderate success maybe worth repeating

D) 68 – Zach had to find more chairs to bring in to the room and it was still standing room only

If you guessed D) – treat yourself to your favorite Starbucks beverage! Bright and early at 6:00AM I had 68 students at my Info Session ready to get their internship journeys started.

After I picked my bottom jaw up off the floor and re-started my heart from the shock of seeing them all there that early – this was , by far, my most well-attended session – I asked them why in the world they came to that early session. The general consensus was that many of them were athletes who were 1) used to getting up early and 2) totally booked during most other times of the day. I had inadvertently hit the ‘sweet spot’ for offering these Info Sessions for a large chunk of my student population!

I repeated the experiment this year, with very similar results, this time offering two early-riser sessions.

I think this story is a good reminder to all of us that while our students, in large part, need to learn to operate on the 8-5 Mon-Fri rhythm of the ‘world of work’ – while they’re still students this is not yet how their world operates and we might be well served, and provide better service to our students, by adjusting some of our offerings outside ‘business hours’ and in some cases, to days/times that we would never think would be preferable!

P.S. My second most well-attended Info Session offering? Sunday 4:00PM-6:00PM.

P.P.S. I also now have 7:00AM and 7:30AM appointments available for booking on my calendar a couple of days each week, and they go filled more often than not

AUTHOR: Zach Osborne is the Director of Internships, Career Services, and Study Abroad at Menlo College and serves as the Region 7 (The Western US) Vice President on the CEIA Board.

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