It’s only February, but that doesn’t mean universities and colleges should wait to prepare and launch their summer melt prevention programs.
Text messaging has proven to be an effective method to prevent summer melt, a phenomenon where high school students accepted to college fail to matriculate in the fall.
If you want to get a head start, here are five things your institution can do right now to encourage students to successfully matriculate.
Opt-in Students Immediately
You don’t need to have an SMS platform to start opting students into a messaging campaign. If you think you might create a messaging program in the future, start collecting numbers right now — as a matter of fact, we recommend it. Simply add a number field to collect mobile numbers and add the necessary terms and conditions to all of your web forms. You also can collect numbers the old fashion way, by asking students to sign up on paper forms at open houses and during student tours. Once you choose a text messaging platform, you can start adding calls to action (CTA) on all of your student-facing collateral. Follow our SMS Starter Kit for some ideas and inspirations on how to create enticing CTAs.
Simplify Application and Enrollment Instructions
As we’ve said before, students and parents, especially those from disadvantage backgrounds, often fail to matriculate into college because they have trouble navigating the college application and enrollment process. Since text messages are limited to 160 characters, higher education institutions have to break down these instructions into easily understood, bite-sized pieces of content. By being simple to read and spaced out over time, students can digest and understand the necessary information more quickly.
Create a Mobile Messaging Calendar
Text messaging platforms like Mobile Commons‘ allow institutions to calendar and schedule messages a year or more in advance. There’s no reason not to leverage this functionality to create messages for your students ahead of time, preventing you and your enrollment specialists from the stress of creating messages on the fly. Planning messages around known student events like open houses and tour dates also can increase prospective student attendance for these programs. Targeting your messages around holidays and other national events can increase engagement from students, as well.
Train the Enrollment and Financial Aid Teams to Respond in Real-Time
Good student engagement programs plan ahead, but great ones are prepared to respond to prospective students’ questions in real-time. Leading the way in higher education, Bowling Green State University (BGSU) has shown that students not only avoid enrollment phone calls, they actually prefer to receive text messages rather than attend in-person meetings. Students can respond to BGSU reminder messages and text back to ask questions or share concerns. The program is staffed by trained students from 9 a.m. to 12 a.m., and BGSU has found that having existing students respond to questions builds its credibility and is an effective way to communicate with prospective students.
BGSU isn’t the only institution that leverages text messaging. Get Schooled, whose mission is to give students the tools and information they need to go to college, has a text message hotline for Hispanic students. Its effort demonstrates that even with certain language preferences, text messaging is an ideal, low-barrier way to answer students’ financial aid questions.
“Text messaging was the easiest and fastest way to help our students and parents carry on the college conversation. No matter where the student was at in their college process, we’re able to tailor the experience and provide college resources just for them. The Mobile Commons’ platform and team was great supporting our college access initiative. It’s an easy platform to use and they’re always there to assist with any questions.”
– David Nguyen, Director of Digital Engagement and Communications, Get Schooled
Incorporate Students’ Parents into Prevention Programs
The college application process is often considered a student’s burden. However, research shows that when parents are involved in their student’s application and enrollment process, students are more likely to succeed. Therefore, as Benjamin Castleman and Lindsay C. Page suggest in their paper, “Messaging to parents may be important because students are often reliant on their parents’ involvement with financial aid- and tuition bill-related tasks. Parents also can reinforce the nudges that students received through the text-based outreach.” Their study also highlighted the effectiveness of text messaging in matriculation among low-income high school graduates, showing that communication with both parents and students is key.
Institutions should do the legwork now to set up their summer melt prevention programs. Text messaging is an effective way to address this growing phenomenon. If you don’t already have a text messaging platform, the easiest way to get started is by collecting students’ mobile numbe
rs. Getting this information is the hard part, but once you start, you’ll realize that students will readily engage with this form of communication and ask questions. You may already communicate with students through postcards, phone calls, emails and in-person visits, but today’s incoming college students are the smartphone generation — meaning that text messaging is as normal a form of communication to them as the telephone. Higher education institutions need to take advantage of this fact to spread their message in a way that prospective students will be most open to receiving it — text messaging.
Looking for more information? Read our eBook: Text Messaging as the Optimal Student Engagement Strategy.
This story was originally posted on Mobile Commons.