Sense of Belonging

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Filter by student and institution characteristics

Use our new Tableau dashboard to see how institutions like yours compare on sense of belonging. Leverage the “Download” feature to save and share your results!

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Female student studying on grassy hill at Illinois Wesleyan University.

Webinar: Do Your Students Feel They Belong?

View the webinar Do Your Students Feel They Belong? Examining Sense of Belonging and Engagement with Jillian Kinzie, Allison BrckaLorenz and Colleen Lofton and download the slides (recorded December 1, 2020).
(Photo courtesy of Illinois Wesleyan University)

View the Webinar

Did You Know?

90%of first-year students feel comfortable being themselves at their institution

80%of first-year students feel valued by their institution

80%of first-year students feel like part of the community at their institution

Belonging is Positively Correlated with Engagement and Perceived Gains

Using an average of responses to these three items to create a scale score, we find that students’ sense of belonging is positively related to engagement and student development. This relationship is particularly strong for students’ quality interactions with others on campus, their sense of institutional support, and their perceived gains in learning and development attributable to their college experiences (Table 1).

Table 1. First-Year Relationship Between Sense of Belonging and Engagement and Perceived Gains
Higher-Order Learning

+ +

Reflective & Integrative Learning


Quantitative Reasoning


Learning Strategies

+ +

Collaborative Learning


Discussions with Diverse Others


Student-Faculty Interaction


Effective Teaching Practices

+ +

Quality of Interactions

+ +

Supportive Environment

+ + +

Perceived Gains

+ + +

Key: + r > .1 (small), ++ r > .3 (medium), +++ r > .5 (large); All correlations are positive and significant at p < .001
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Do First-Year Students of Different Backgrounds Feel They Belong?

Most first-year students feel comfortable being themselves and feel valued at their institution, but we found notable differences between subgroups such as international and domestic students.
(Photo courtesy of New Jersey Institute of Technology)

Discover how background affects belonging
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Cultivating a Sense of Belonging for Black or African American First-Year Students

Within any group, there is variability in sense of belonging, and by examining what relates to these differences we can identify ways to improve experiences for all.
(Photo courtesy of Ashland University)

Explore what we learned

The sense of community and belonging and the support you feel from both staff and students has been the most fulfilling.

First-year student majoring in Neuroscience and English (language and literature) from Bucknell University

Does Sense of Belonging Relate to Persistence?

First-year students who indicated an intent to return to their institution the following year scored notably higher on sense of belonging (p < .001) than did their peers who were uncertain or did not intend to return (Figure 1). Institutions that successfully promote belonging can therefore realize higher rates of student retention.

Figure 1. First-Year Students’ Sense of Belonging by Intent to Return to the InstitutionGo to an accessible version of Figure 1 data.
Three students study at a table outside at California State University Dominguez Hills.

Affirming the Importance of Belonging

California State University, Dominguez Hills

California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) is using its NSSE 2020 sense of belonging results in a variety of ways, including as part of their integrated assessment of their First Year Experience, in their routine sharing of results, and in an analysis of retention.

See what CSUDH learned
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Complementary Efforts to Study and Act on Belonging

Georgia Southwestern State University

In Georgia's statewide effort to increase graduation rates, universities are designing interventions to develop productive academic mindsets such as learning from setbacks, having a sense of purpose, and finding a place in the institutional environment.

See what GSW learned
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Sense of Belonging as Validation of the Power of Community

Taylor University

Taylor University, a faith-based liberal arts institution in Upland, Indiana, teaches that community extends beyond the physical campus. They challenge students to live authentically, while also supporting others in their community—promoting belongingness via campus culture.

See what Taylor learned
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The Importance of Major to Sense of Belonging

The senior year is an important time for students to focus on socialization to their field and sense of belonging can matter for that integration.
(Photo courtesy of Lewis-Clark State College)

See how major affects belonging
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Faculty Discipline Matters to Sense of Belonging

Faculty sense of belonging and perceptions of teaching environments are important components for supporting faculty to do their best work.
(Photo courtesy of Sacred Heart University)

Explore our faculty insights


Hausmann, L. R. M., Schofield, J. W., & Woods, R. L. (2007). Sense of belonging as a predictor of intentions to persist among African American and white first-year college students. Research in Higher Education, 48(7), 803-839.

McMillan, D. W., & Chavis, D. M. (1986, January). Sense of community: A definition and theory. Journal of Community Psychology, 14(1), 6–23.<6::AID-JCOP2290140103>3.0.CO;2-I

Strayhorn, T. L. (2019). College students’ sense of belonging: A key to educational success for all students (2nd edition). Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.