Students today are constantly bombarded with communications vying for their attention. However, when they receive your communications at the right time, you can drive consistent, positive behaviors that ultimately lead to their success — if you can only cut through the noise. 

To have any chance at nudging your students toward the critical actions that you know will lead to positive outcomes, you need an effective engagement strategy. So, how do you ensure that your students will see your messages about completing the FAFSA by the priority deadline, meeting with an advisor to plan an academic path, declaring a major on time, and more?

The answer may be the channel you use to reach your students. Many institutions’ efforts to recruit and enroll students, and then keep students engaged along the path to matriculation and beyond, are derailed by communicating through email — a channel that’s become increasingly obsolete for students.  

“We’ve Always Emailed Students… Why Stop Now?”

The current generation of college students are digital natives. They spend more than 3.5 hours online per day on their mobile devices — almost 50 minutes longer than the average internet user. Yet, they don’t typically use their phones to read emails. That’s because they demand information that’s personalized, easily accessible, and instantaneous — everything that the mass emails they receive are not.  

So, how can you effectively capture students’ attention to boost overall experience and outcomes? It starts by understanding why email doesn’t meet their needs, and which communication channels align with your students’ inherent behaviors and preferences.

1. For Today’s Students, Texting Is Like Breathing

Nearly half of Gen-Z students received their first mobile phone between the ages of 10 and 12. For the vast majority of them, texting has been their top mobile activity, ever since. This behavior continues into their teenage years and adulthood. On average, college students check their phones more than 150 times per day and spend about 94 minutes texting.

2. Email Fatigue Is at an All-Time High

Over the past year, many institutions have faced increased engagement challenges as they work to communicate important COVID-19 updates on a near-constant basis. Yet, by relying on mass emails issued by individual contributors or departments, many students have suffered from inbox overload due to tons of irrelevant information. This tends to create an “email fatigue” scenario, where students often ignore or simply delete emails altogether. As a result, they wind up missing important information and failing to take key actions tied to student success

3. Text Engagement Rates Blow Email Away

Thanks to pervasive email fatigue, less than 25% of emails related to education are ever opened. In comparison, 98% of mobile phone owners read every text they receive, and 90% read their texts within just three minutes of receiving them. Given this massive disparity, it’s easy to see why response rates are 4 times higher with SMS — or texting — versus other communication methods. Texting is simply the most convenient and efficient way for today’s students to access the information they need. 

4. Texting Sparks Positive Student Behaviors

In a study, 85% of students reported that the text messages they received informed them of something they hadn’t realized they needed to do. Georgia State University, for example, has seen incredible success with texting. After partnering with AdmitHub to implement a behaviorally intelligent SMS chatbot, the institution has used texting to successfully drive beneficial student behaviors throughout the entire higher education journey.

5. Targeted Text Messaging Slashes Summer Melt

Like many institutions, Austin Peay State University historically struggled with summer melt — seeing prospective students’ intentions to attend the institution dissipate between the end of high school and their first semester of college. By implementing an SMS chatbot from AdmitHub, and taking advantage of its interactive survey capabilities, the university gained an understanding of individual prospects’ needs. This led to a targeted recruitment push using the bot to send surveys and nudges about all sorts of topics — from housing and academic advising to last-minute updates about student events. Not only has this reduced summer melt, but Austin Peay has achieved record-breaking enrollment as a result.

6. Students Prefer Chatbot Interactions Over Email

Opt-in and adoption rates for texting bots prove that today’s students don’t view texting as intrusive as they do email. Consider the University of Northern Colorado, where nearly 90% of students have opted in to chatbot communications to get their hands on the information they need, when they need it.

Our work with University of South Carolina Aiken also exemplifies this generational shift. The institution employed a behaviorally intelligent SMS chatbot to scale its efforts, personalize its approach, and maximize text messaging impact. The result? Among incoming freshmen who submitted an enrollment deposit, 96% found the chatbot helpful, 97% recommended it for other students interested in the school, and 87% thought the number of times it communicated with them was “just about right.”

7. Personalization Cultivates Meaningful Relationships

No two students are alike. Every student comes from a different background and will experience different roadblocks throughout their college career. Some need more support than others, and communication is the most effective way to check-in with students to support their well-being and prioritize a sense of belonging. Behaviorally intelligent chatbots can help institutions build meaningful relationships with students by speaking their language in a way that’s friendly, personalized, and fun. What’s more, this relatable approach fosters two-way dialogue. Students can text questions to the institution’s bot to instantly find the information they need to chart their own path, on their own terms.

8. SMS Texting Keeps Students Informed Around the Clock

Delivering the right message at the right moment is critical to effective student engagement. Yet we’ve found 35% of messages from students come in after standard business hours. Whether it’s admissions registration reminders, new program announcements, health and safety alerts, or tech support prompts, students require immediate access to the things they need to know. An email 24 hours after a request will simply not cut it. Behavioral intelligence makes it possible to listen actively at scale and answer students’ questions in real time to deliver on individual needs. 

9. In Times of Crisis, 24/7 Engagement Provides Critical Answers and Support

COVID-19 brought unprecedented communications challenges to light for many colleges and universities across the country. One of Dallas College’s top concerns was finding an efficient way to provide enhanced support, guidance, and communication throughout the pandemic. The institution employed a COVID-19 support chatbot that empowered them to respond to these challenges and lay the groundwork for an effective empathy engine for meaningful communication.

10. Staff Also Benefits From the Right Engagement Strategy

At many institutions today, staff members struggle to engage and motivate their students. When students are inundated with emails that are irrelevant, out-of-date, or simply not opened, many staff members find themselves answering the same questions over and over again — leaving them little time to prioritize more complex student challenges and cultivate meaningful relationships. By embracing behaviorally intelligent chatbots, institutions also empower their teams to work smarter and amplify their impact.

Transform Your Student Engagement With Text Messaging

Put simply, no communication channel compares to texting when you need to capture your students’ attention right now. 

Sign up for an interactive demo today to start guiding your students through their higher education journey by delivering the on-demand information they need — in the way they actually want to receive it.