Referral and Recruitment
A wealth of literature and research support the existence of effective, evidence-based AOD prevention and intervention strategies for college students, yet ensuring the participation of students in these programs is a matter that has received less attention.
While increased screening on campuses and in communities is an excellent way to enhance referrals, it is difficult to ensure that students referred to a brief intervention or some other form of treatment will actually follow through. Equally difficult to engage in services are those students who fall outside of a campus’s screening protocol, but who may still be engaging in risky AOD use. Though research in this area is limited there are a few recommended strategies.
There is some research evidence to support the use of social marketing to recruit an increased number of students into AOD services. Social marketing technique recognizes that students are consumers of prevention and intervention services and utilizes intensive research (focus groups, interviews, surveys) to create messages likely to increase both interest and attendance.
Social marketing can also be integrated into the stepped approach model (SAM), in which multiple levels of interventions are made available and targeted to students based on their stage of need (i.e. offering a range of services on campus from web-based AOD assessment and feedback to brief interventions, outpatient therapy, and community referrals) . Providing this range of services gives students the opportunity to be met where they are at, in an intervention that is suited to the AOD-related issues they are experiencing, which in turn increases the likelihood of their participation.
Students indicate that factors such as convenience, time commitment, incentives, and an emphasis on what can be gained through their participation all play a role in their willingness to participate in an intervention. The appeal of AOD interventions and other programming can be maximized by:
- Choosing locations easily accessible to students
- Choosing times that fit well into students’ schedules
- Making clear what will be gained by their participation (e.g. helping a friend, learning new information about alcohol)
- Providing incentives for participation (e.g. food, gift cards, school credit)
Research also shows that initiating reminder contacts (phone, emails, letters) to students who have already committed to an intervention can significantly increase their rate of attendance.