Introduction: According to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), there will not be a growth in the number of graduating high school seniors until 2024-2025. This means that competition, amongst colleges, for the same students will increase. While many colleges will compete for the same student, the methods that the school chooses to use to convey their unique messaging will help students differentiate between the maybe I’ll consider and I’d definitely attend. Beginning with the entering class of 2015, we implemented the use of text messaging to complement our regular communications attempts with students and families.
Implementation: In summer 2014, we began adding checkboxes to our existing applications, inquiry forms, visit registration pages, etc., that asked students to indicate if they would be open to texting with their admissions counselor. While we asked students at each stage of the admissions funnel to opt in, students were hesitant. In year two, we changed texting providers, which enabled each admissions counselor to have his/her own 10-digit texting number, allowing students to see the messages coming from a real phone number, not a short-code. Our traditional method of communicating with students was based on a cycle of contacting the student/family at least once/month via phone (more times if different triggers had been pulled [i.e. accepted student, financial aid letter mailed]). As students became more comfortable with texting with their admissions counselor, some counselors used texting as their only method of communication.
Areas for Consideration:
Does texting, or any other method, fit with your current communications plan? And determine the way in which you currently communicate with students/families. For us, as relationship builders, it fit perfectly.
How will the admissions team adopt and use this service? At first, this was a challenge, as we only had one administrator who could send messages for the entire pool. With a new vendor, each counselor was able to text their applicants on their own.
What questions will you ask? You must ask a question. Do not use text messaging to replace other methods of communication; use it to complement your current tools.
Are you ready to have a conversation? Students do not want all-capitalized, impersonal texts. They want someone on the other end, ready to engage with them.
Conclusion: For the Fall 2016 class, 74% of our applicants opted-in for texting. Students completing their application texted with their admissions counselor three-times more than those students who did not complete their applications. The introduction of a tool that allowed for admissions staff to communicate with students in a media that the student is comfortable in, led to impressive successes for the fall class.