How to Engage Chapter Members at Every Stage of Their Academic Career

Chapter members’ needs and interests change depending on their academic standing. Are your chapters keeping up with their journey?
How to Engage Chapter Members at Every Stage of Their Academic Career

Chapter members’ needs and interests change depending on their academic standing. Are your chapters keeping up with their journey?

In each season of your life, your needs and interests will evolve. Your members are no different. Throughout their academic career they will learn, grow, and adapt based on their experiences. What was important to them as freshmen might not even be on their radar when they become seniors. Do your chapters have benefits that appeal to members during each season of their academic journey?

To ensure members are actively engaged, chapters need to offer relevant and beneficial programming. Leverage your resources at headquarters to help chapters facilitate this connection and meet their members where they are at in their academic career.


Like most needs in life, the importance of different membership benefits are subject to change. Members may join a chapter looking for networking and socializing, but the value of these benefits diminish over time as they become more established in their social groups.

You can help chapters anticipate these changing needs by making sure they have benefits that resonate with each academic stage. With your ability to easily contact members across all chapters, you can conduct a survey to gather valuable data on what benefits are truly important to members.

Make sure to require survey respondents to identify their academic standing so you can provide meaningful results to chapters. You can regularly gather feedback using newsletter and website polls or pulse surveys. Use academic stage as a parameter to sort and share results with chapters.



Once you’ve identified what benefits members at different stages are seeking, encourage chapters to review the results and identify if they have any gaps in benefits or programming. Chapters can leverage the results to complete a member journey mapping exercise and get a representation of the member experience from initial interaction with the chapter through graduation.

Chapters can use the results to update their programming and then promote their hard work by including the new benefits in recruitment efforts and new member programs. As members advance in their journey, chapters should continue reminding them of the unique benefits they offer for the academic stage they are in.



Set chapters up for success by educating them on the activities that will engage freshmen, junior, sophomore, and senior members.



Freshmen are likely to go through an adjustment period as they’re meeting new people, having new experiences, and potentially living on their own for the first time. Your chapters can step-in by offering programming that better prepares members for this period of transition.

Networking & Connecting

Chapters can become a resource for freshmen members looking for ways to network and connect. Provide chapters guidance on how to create and manage LinkedIn subgroups or Facebook groups so members can virtually interact with chapter members and alumni. Chapters can also provide communications to members highlighting networking events available on campus or virtually. Encourage chapters to host in-person or virtual meetups and icebreakers that help freshmen feel connected and welcomed.


Study Habits

Cultivating good study habits can be a challenge for incoming freshmen. Chapters can host virtual or in-person study groups and workshops where they provide study tips and tricks. They can also facilitate mentor programming where freshmen connect with junior and senior members for guidance.


Fields of Study Mentoring

Chapters can support freshmen as they face the challenge of deciding on a major or validating that their chosen major is actually the right fit. Pair freshmen with upperclassmen who are in similar fields of study to provide insights on their journey and share what they’ve learned to give freshmen a better sense of what to expect as they progress through their studies.



Sophomore and junior members have hit their stride when it comes to the social aspects of their academic journey. They’ve already made friends and feel comfortable with the ins-and-outs of college life, now they are looking to gain experiences. Your chapters can support members during this stage by offering benefits that are more geared toward career prep, landing internships, volunteering, and other resume builders.


Career Specialization

If they haven’t already, members will take the leap to declare their majors and apply to specialized colleges for their chosen discipline during these stages. Chapters can support this process by finding alumni in specific professions who are willing to connect with members and give them advice. This can take the form of webinars, workshops, moderated Q&A, and other virtual or in-person options.


Internship Prep

To support the hunt for internships that will help members gain valuable experience in their selected field, chapters can run virtual or in-person workshops on how to search and apply for positions. Other helpful programs could include how to ask for recommendations, LinkedIn profile reviews, and interview prep.

Most colleges and universities have career centers, chapters can reach out to see if a career center representative will participate in a virtual or in-person learning session to help members write and review resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, and more.



Along with interning, volunteering is a great way to develop new skills and build resume experience. Chapters can offer committee leadership positions or microvolunteering opportunities that allow members to get involved with their national or local philanthropy. Virtual volunteer opportunities could include hosting virtual meetups or events, drafting marketing or blog content, and moderating online community or social media discussions.



To engage senior members, focus on trying to keep them involved as volunteers, mentors, and leaders. Your chapters can offer beneficial experiences as seniors turn their sights toward graduating and entering the workforce or graduate school.


Job or Graduate School Prep

Similar to internship prep, upperclassmen will benefit from job or graduate school prep. Chapters can host virtual or in-person resume or cover letter workshops, conduct mock interviews, and provide interview follow-up etiquette. Encourage chapters to involve alumni and advisors who may have valuable experience to share.


Workplace Skills

In addition to interview prep, chapters can focus on offering programs that hone workplace skills such as negotiating, communicating effectively, hosting meetings, working with vendors, and more. This can help ensure your senior members can enter the workplace with confidence. Enlist alumni so they can share their experiences and lessons learned throughout their careers.

Tip: Engage alumni that are career or business coaches as they may already have a framework on how to share these skills already built out.


Service to Chapter

With all of the experience they’ve gained, seniors are primed to give back to the chapter through mentor programs. Not only does mentor experience build their resume, but it can help them develop essential leadership skills. Make sure your chapters have programs set-up to connect seniors with members at earlier stages. This is also a great time to have your chapters lay the groundwork for engaging seniors for volunteer, advisor, or house board opportunities available after graduation.



With an uncertain school year and the mounting crises that 2020 has thrown their way, members at all academic stages will benefit from an increased focus on mental health and wellness programming. Chapters should consider including resources in these areas as part of their member engagement strategy. Whether they are virtual or in-person, share these mental health and wellness program ideas with your chapters:

  • Fitness or nutrition workshops hosted by a local gym or nutritionist
  • Organized intramural teams or virtual exercise groups
  • Workshops on how to manage stress and anxiety hosted by mental health professionals

With tailored programming and benefits, your chapters can provide an enhanced member experience that will keep members engaged through graduation and beyond.