The Game of Life: Engaging your campus in the student lifecycle

November 4, 2019
  • Meetings, Workshops, and Trainings
  • SEM Conference

by Jody Gordon, Senior Consultant, AACRAO Consulting

It is not often that you can attend a conference presentation and get to play a board game while you’re there. But in their presentation, Alicia Moore and Tara Sprehe introduced the session attendees to an insightful variation on the Milton Bradley board game classic “The Game of Life.”

Traditionally the game simulates a life through jobs, marriage, having children, and paying taxes. But this new take, adapted from Sinclair College, was all about our students’ life and experiences with us from the point of connection, entry, progress and completion (or graduation).

How (not) to

The presenters gave each table their own board game of life, with student personas to adopt based on actual student profiles. The instructions given were vague and sometimes contradictory, just like a student’s college experience might be. Frustratingly familiar. 

With each roll of the dice, students (session attendees) turned over cards that presented obstacles or boons (“you forgot to apply for financial aid, take two steps back” or “you registered on time, take three steps forward”) or choices that could advance or set them back in their educational journey. The scenarios were all based on actual student events.

Feeling frustrated

After 40 minutes of playing, only 8 out of the 30 “students” in the room had managed to graduate. Players commented on how they had all started at the same time but many of them had not even made it past the entry point to the college. Others commented on how, when faced with unclear rules, they tried to give their peer students advice on how best to proceed (wrongly or rightly). Some noted that they felt they were fortunate to even finish (just a lucky roll of the dice) while others felt they did not even get to celebrate or feel good about an accomplishment because another set-back came at them so quickly (sounding familiar?).

Colleges have used this game to help front line staff right up to senior administrators and faculty understand just how challenging it can be for students. And some campuses have even had their students play the game as a way of demonstrating that their educational journey can be complex and full of twists and turns. BUT it also helps students understand that there are many resources available to help them in this game we call (college) life!