Spring is upon us, and you know what that means: National College Decision Day is almost here! May 1st is the deadline for college-bound students to make tough choices about where to enroll in college. By now, most students have submitted their applications and are anxiously waiting to hear back.
The next two months are a critical time for colleges and universities to process applications, get students excited about college, and ultimately enroll a brand new class of students. Text messaging students as they transition from prospect to applicant to admit eases the process for both sides. Before sending that first text, admissions offices should consider the following do's and don'ts of texting applicants:
DO collect students’ phone numbers on applications and inquiry forms.
You can’t text applicants if you don’t have their cell phone numbers. It’s easy to get phone numbers, along with consent to receive text messages, in one single step: all you need to do is ask for students’ phone numbers on any application, inquiry card, or other admission form. Providing a phone number this way is considered verbal consent by the FCC, so nonprofit colleges and universities can start texting right away.
DO text applicants with timely reminders about incomplete tasks.
Is an applicant missing a letter of recommendation? An essay? Test scores? Transcripts? A text message from an admissions counselor can remind applicants of missing materials and nudge them to submit everything on time. Pro tip: Adding a call-to-action in each text message, such as a link to an application page or an online resource, points students in the right direction and prompts them to act quickly.
DO keep student information up-to-date.
Imagine getting a text message saying you didn’t submit an application essay. You log on to the application portal and the first thing you see is your submitted essay. That would be confusing, right? Update student information whenever it changes to make sure applicants don’t receive conflicting messages. Integrating text messaging with a CRM or student information system keeps information consistent and up-to-date.
DON’T ignore student replies.
Texting students opens up a two-way communication channel unlike any other. Students are much more comfortable asking questions via text than email or phone, so don’t be surprised when your text inbox starts to fill up with messages. The application process can be confusing for even the most capable students; don’t cut off a reliable source of help (you!) by using text messaging as a one-way alert system.
DON’T send the same text to every applicant.
Engineering students don’t want texts about applying to the history department. Students applying for one scholarship don’t need texts about the other hundred scholarships that are offered. Sending mass texts that don’t apply to students is the quickest way to make applicants ignore your messages. You learn so much about each applicant from his or her application; use this information to create personalized text messages that are relevant to each student’s stage in the application process.
DON’T worry if engagement rates aren’t 100%.
Most text messaging programs see student engagement rates somewhere in the 70% to 90% range. Since admissions programs text students who haven’t yet decided if a particular school is right for them, they tend to see slightly lower rates of student engagement. As students move through the admissions funnel from applying to admitted to enrolled, engagement rates will start to rise.