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"I Just Want To Belong" Student Engagement Is Crucial To Student Success

We all want to belong. As social creatures we want to find a place where we fit it, where we have a support system and have a place that feels like home. Finding a place to belong on a college campus can be a daunting task for anyone to take on, but once you find your place on campus you will feel better about college and have a better chance at persisting.

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It's about sorting yourself.

Daniel Chambliss and Christopher Takacs (2014) wrote in their book How College Works that "when students choose courses, meet teachers, and select majors, they are sorting themselves among a limited number of educational opportunities" (p. 68). Once a student declares a major they begin on a path that sets them apart from many other students. They begin to limit what classes they take, what extracurricular opportunities they are exposed to, and what their potential career path is.

Class size effects engagement.

Colleges constantly boast about how small their class size is, but how does class size really change student engagement and success. Many institutions advertise their average class size, but the average does not mean that most of your classes are going to be that class size. Chambliss and Takacs (2014) conducted a student at a university and concluded that the small average class size was not distributed equally. This caused students to not have proper engagement in the classroom. With smaller class sizes student get more 1 on 1 attention with the professor allowing the students to be more engaged in class and have better educational opportunities.

Finding your fit.

Finding where you belong can be hard. Chambliss and Takacs (2014) stated that "integration is crucial to students remaining in college, and most students main concern at college is to find a stable and enjoyable peer group" (p. 78-79). Students find a place to belong in student organizations, classes, and majors. Belonging helps students have a support group and persist through college. Research shows that having a sense of belonging at an institution dramatically increases the students chances to remain enrolled and graduate.

Belonging on- and off-line.


In today's society it is imperative to belong online and offline. Students have been on social media for most of their lives, and it is a major part of their lives. Students are building networks both online through social media sites and offline through classes, student organizations, and professional development opportunities. When a student has a sense of belonging that aligns both online and offline, the student has a higher chance to have a positive feeling about their institution.

Being a member of the campus community.


While being a member of student organizations is the typical way that students develop a peer group and sense of belonging, it is crucial that students become an active member of the campus community. Colleges and universities have many opportunities for students to get involved, become engaged, and grow personally and professionally. By being an active member of the campus community a student can help affect positive change on campus while gaining skills that they will use throughout their future.


Chambliss, D. F., & Takacs, C. G. (2014). How college works. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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