Summer is here, which means fall’s incoming freshmen will be arriving on campus soon to attend classes. This should prompt university staff to remind them of important deadlines, forms, and other processes that need to be addressed before the first day of school.

Many students aren’t aware of all the responsibilities they have before they attend college, adding to summer melt problems. That’s why it’s crucial for college staff to engage the student body before and throughout the summer to ensure the completion of all requirements. Early conversation can also help staff guide students to where they need to be and confirm students stay on track. Communication before the student steps foot on campus builds a stronger relationship between the college and the student, leading to growth in student success throughout all four years of their higher education.

Here are six questions colleges should be asking new students before the first day of school:

#1: Do you need help with registering for orientation?

Orientation is usually required by colleges and universities because it lays a critical foundation for new students. At orientation, students register for classes, meet their academic advisors, bond with classmates, and familiarize themselves with the campus.

At the beginning of 2019, the University of South Carolina Aiken faced challenges with their enrollment processes and needed to increase their number of student orientation sign-ups. Through their AdmitHub-powered chatbot “Ace,” USC Aiken was able to send text message orientation registration reminders and answers to hundreds of students at a time. USC Aiken staff worked closely with AdmitHub to craft text campaigns proven to resonate with students, and paired with Ace’s conversational tone, students found texting the bot fun while receiving the exact information they needed. As a result, USC Aiken experienced a 63% increase in orientation sign ups for the fall of 2019 compared to the fall of 2018.

#2: Do you know about our FAFSA resources?

It’s common for students to fill out the FAFSA with the help of their parents, but for students without parental guidance or access to a high school counselor over the summer, completing the FAFSA can be a confusing task. That’s why it’s important for university staff to step in and be a mentor for students who need FAFSA help.

Leading students through the process conversationally generates quicker FAFSA completion, maximizing the amount of federal aid students receive. There’s a difference between asking “Did you fill out the FAFSA yet?” and “Which FAFSA steps do you need help with?” When asking conversationally, students feel more comfortable returning communication and are more likely to complete requirements.

#3: Do you need to see the doctor before arriving on campus?

While seemingly a small hurdle, immunization forms can be tricky to complete for new students. Some students may even lack access to healthcare before arriving on campus, preventing them from receiving any missing immunizations. Immunizations are usually required to attend class to guarantee the health safety of students. Failure to receive immunizations and turn in the proper paperwork can lead to universities prohibiting students from registering for classes.

Like USC Aiken, Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina also struggled with getting students “Ram Ready,” a WSSU term for a student that has completed all required steps before arriving on campus. After implementing chatbot technology that allowed staff to remind and ask students to fulfill immunization requirements, WSSU saw a 37% increase in immunization compliance among other positive impacts.

More students than ever were ready to enjoy new student orientation, make new friends, and figure out their next phase in life without the weight of unfinished business hanging over their heads

Joel Lee, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management, Winston-Salem State University

#4: What part of dorm life are you most excited for?

Shelter is a basic necessity and can be overlooked by college staff as a result, but for some students, figuring out where they’re living while attending school can be a nightmare.

Get students to timely coordinate their housing plans by asking how they plan to furnish their room, what they’re most excited for, and if they know about roommate-finding resources. Asking thoughtful questions can get students excited and prepared for the school year while also showing how much college staff care.

#5: Do you have a plan for getting to campus?

Car, plane, or train? Students should have an idea of how they plan to get to campus weeks before they leave for college. For students who are commuting regularly to campus, they will also need to make sure they have a plan for regularly getting to and from their classes.

By asking students what their transportation plans are, staff can flag students who need help getting to campus and provide the appropriate assistance.

#6: Do you know how to pay your tuition and fees?

Before the first day of class, students should receive ample communication asking them to pay their remaining tuition and fees along with instructions on how to do so.

Emails and phone calls to students about payments can easily go unnoticed, especially during the summer months when Gen Z’ers step away from school responsibilities. Asking the student if they need help with payments or challenges they’re facing through text message allows students to get the information they need through a conversational platform they use everyday. After all, 98% of text messages are opened within 15 minutes of being sent while only 20% of emails are ever even opened.

Starting the conversation about requirements before the fall leads to summer melt reduction and fuller classrooms. Pioneering universities are guiding their students through the necessary steps, and answering all of their related questions, via text messaging chatbots.

AdmitHub’s AI chatbots for colleges allow staff to communicate via text with thousands of students at a time. Two-way texting between the chatbot and student provides the answers students need immediately through personalized conversation, 24/7.

For more information on how to leverage chatbots to reduce summer melt and increase first day attendance, schedule a demo with AdmitHub’s team.