The Benefits of Texting Prospective Students (with Examples)
Is Texting Prospective Students an Answer to Lagging Enrollment?
More colleges and universities are embracing the benefits of texting prospective students in an effort to establish a personal relationship with students considering their schools. Competition is fierce, and institutions are searching for any way possible to boost enrollment. SMS texting is a simple, yet effective communication tool that can set one school apart from others.
The higher education industry was already struggling before COVID-19, and now, studies show college enrollments are declining at a sharper rate, a full 2.5% in the fall of 2020 alone. That’s 400,000 fewer students in one semester. To put that into perspective, there was a 1.3% decline in college enrollment in the fall of 2019, a loss of 231,000 students since the fall of 2018.
The problem has been brewing for a long time. According to a 2018 prediction by the late Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen, 50% of colleges and universities will close or go bankrupt in the next 10-15 years. The Department of Education recently sponsored a study that concluded the closure rate for small colleges and universities will triple in the coming years. COVID-19 surely hasn’t helped things.
Texting prospective students isn’t the magic bullet, but it is a relatively inexpensive tool every institution should have in their toolbox.
Where to Go From Here
It seems the pandemic repercussions never cease. Higher education institutions were already struggling to manage demographic shifts, rapid growth in online education, free internet-based learning options, industry innovation, and a fully mobile-centric student base.
Now, many prospective students are skipping higher education altogether, opting for a gap year or jumping into the job market instead, even if studies show abandoning school will be detrimental to their long-term interest.
Leading colleges and universities (both private and public) are trying to redefine themselves post-pandemic, attacking these issues head-on with strategic investments and operational improvements. Investing in instructional design to upgrade course content and embracing online educational options are just the beginning.
Today, using technology to engage prospective students is just as critical to lowering operating costs. Schools must implement modern systems set up for today’s mobile environment, including mobile communications like texting potential students.
Today’s students manage their entire lives through their phones. As a result, text messaging has become an essential tool to engage and communicate with students and prospects in real-time to increase enrollment, improve retention, and produce higher graduation rates. Over 97% of text messages are read in three minutes or less – nothing else compares. Universities must implement enterprise-grade, scalable texting systems to effectively interact with today’s students.
The best messaging platforms allow university administrators to create instant 2-way conversations as well as mass notifications to remind prospects about deadlines and other important university information. The fastest-growing universities use texting prospective students to increase response rates in admissions, engage in one-on-one conversations with counselors, introduce student services, ease financial aid application burdens, and promote career services.
Ways Colleges and Universities Are Using Text Messaging to Increase Student Enrollment and Improve Retention
Mass Text Message Notifications
Texting prospective students with notifications and alerts ensures they see urgent or time-sensitive information and have valuable resources at their fingertips. According to University Business, two-thirds of incoming college students and their parents find text messaging with key information or important dates helpful.
Mass text message notifications require short codes (5-6 digit shortened phone numbers) instead of long codes (normal 10-digit phone numbers). Short codes are special numbers designated by wireless carriers to send large numbers of simultaneous text messages for urgent alerts, opt-in SMS marketing campaigns and other mass notifications. Using long codes for mass texting will cause messages to be flagged and blocked as spam.
Below are some examples of mass text notifications colleges are sending to their prospective students. These notifications can be streamlined yet personalized by inserting unique student information, such as name, appointment date and interests when you integrate the texting platform with a CRM or SIS.
With so many applications to complete and deadlines to remember, it’s easy for applicants to forget when certain forms are due. Make it easy for students by texting prospective students reminders with due dates. Be sure to include links within the message to allow quick access and on-time completion.
Promoting Campus Tours and Social Media Channels
The more prospective students engage with a school they’re interested in applying to, the more likely they will actually apply. Invite them to sign up for a campus tour and follow social media channels by texting them links to register or follow. This is also a great way for them to meet other interested prospective students and form social connections.
Campus Tour Reminders
It takes significant effort and marketing dollars to finally get people interested in visiting your school, so it is absolutely essential to make sure they actually attend. Texting prospective students reminders with dates, times and addresses can dramatically increase attendance and reduce no-show rates. Keep in mind that prospective students may have signed up for several campus tours, so make sure they feel welcome and know what to do with a quick reminder.
Scholarships capture the interest of prospective students. Send prospects a quick text message to show scholarship options and ensure they see the financial incentives available to them from your university.
School Event Notifications
Build a sense of community with students by promoting school events, such as sporting events, art fairs, meet-and-greets, open houses, etc. Text message reminders have an immediate impact and produce proven results to boost event attendance.
High School Visit Notification
Many high schools invite college admissions reps to visit their students in a College Fair or something similar. Be sure you’re on their radar by sending prospective students a notification that your school will be there and would love to meet them and answer any questions. You can also promote any swag you may be giving out.
Text prospective students who have shown interest in your school a promotional message highlight the benefits of enrolling. Keep the message short and allow prospective students to easily learn more by responding to the message.
Two-way Text Conversations
Texting is conversational by nature, so leverage this personal communication channel to engage with students and increase their chance for success. A texting research study by Lindsay Page and Ben Castleman on Summer Melt found that 86% of students reported text messaging prompted them to complete a task they hadn’t finished.
When texting prospective students in one-to-one conversations, it is best to use long codes to enable both voice and text conversations using familiar phone numbers.
Prospective students researching schools often have questions. Make it easy by sending a text instead of an email or voicemail that is sure to be lost or ignored. By losing valuable time, prospective students may have already moved on to another choice. Let students know they can text you by promoting your phone number on your website, emails, flyers and other marketing materials. Also, include an easy-to-call button in your text message.
Going from high school to college is a big change for students. Counselors who show they care about their students’ success and overall experience can increase retention and graduation rates. Good counselors send frequent text messages to prospective students to check in and find out if they can answer any questions about their major, class load and other requirements.
Admission and Specific School Questions
Students may have questions they either forget or were too shy to ask on a campus tour. Enable a more open line of communication between students and staff by allowing them to text-specific questions they may have about the admissions process, financial aid, majors and classes, housing, and other important details. The more they know, the more comfortable they will be in applying.
When it comes to communication, nothing is quicker and more convenient than texting for today’s mobile-centric students. This article provides only a few of the many ways colleges and universities are leveraging texting prospective students to increase interest, boost enrollment, and improve each student’s overall experience.