3 Texting Tips to Help High School Students Make a Successful Transition to College

By Brian Kathman, CEO, Signal Vine

Brian Kathman, CEO, Signal Vine

High school seniors have a lot on their minds, from college applications to campus visits to wrapping up their social and academic time in high school. With everything going on, it’s not uncommon for things to fall through the cracks–a missed deadline here, an incomplete task there. What do these students need from YOU as their trusted high school support staff to get these tasks finished correctly on time? And why is it important to “nudge” students in the right direction?

According to a 2014 research published by Dr. Benjamin L. Castleman and Dr. Lindsay C. Page, 10 to 40 percent of college-intending students fail to matriculate in the fall following high school. Their research shows that this is especially prevalent in low-income families. Factors that contribute to this phenomenon include absence of school support, confusion over paperwork, lack of parental guidance, and the very human tendency to procrastinate.

"With the right text content, strategy, and personalization tactics in place, you’ll be able to nudge seniors in the right direction"

The good news is, there’s a simple remedy: direct, personalized text messaging. The same research from Castleman and Page shows that personalized text intervention from education staff helps to significantly increase student awareness and comprehension of pre-matriculation tasks. With the holidays coming up and the new year around the corner, now is the perfect time to put a student texting strategy into place, ahead of the frenzy that comes with seniors’ final months of their high school career.

So, what are the best ways to communicate with seniors via text to get the job done? We’ve pulled together our top tips.

Keep It Short and Sweet

Texting seniors about important upcoming tasks like college enrollment tasks and FAFSA application deadlines, is effective because it breaks down complicated processes and complex information into easily-digestible reminders. This means you need to choose wisely when it comes to the information you send via text. There are a few texting best practices you can follow to ensure you meet student expectations for texts they receive from you. Be mindful about sending the right message that includes only pertinent information; seniors are just looking for a quick summary of the specific information they need in order to complete the task at hand. And be sure not to go overboard with abbreviations–students don’t need you to be “hip” with the lingo you use. Finally, most students reply to your texts within 90 seconds, so don’t leave your students hanging when you get a response.

Create a Purposeful Strategy

Once you know the content you’ll be sending to students, the next step is to develop a strategy that will get them to read and respond to you. You’ll be reaching students directly on their phones, so you’ll want to build a text campaign that is purposeful and efficient. First, identify the end goal you want to achieve by texting seniors. Rely on past student patterns to identify where there might especially be a need–Do seniors tend to put off enrollment until the last minute? Have they had trouble with FAFSA applications in the past? Have there been a lot of questions about housing options? Source answers from other staff members to get a consensus on where the knowledge gap lies for seniors when it comes to making the transition to college. From there, set deadlines related to these goals and decide how you plan to negate each knowledge gap and pain point with text reminders. Once you have sent your text reminders, make sure to set aside time to respond to student questions in a timely manner. Students will likely have follow-up questions; make sure you’re ready to answer them.

Know How to Handle Radio Silence

Whether it’s personal or professional, sending out a text inevitably comes with the dreaded wait time. If you don’t hear back in a timely manner, you start to ask yourself, “Did I say the wrong thing?”, “Did I not convey the importance?”, “Did I say too much?” The same worries can come to mind when you text seniors. The best way to keep these fears at bay is to make sure the texts you send are personalized. Seniors don’t want to feel like they are part of a mass text blast-and they’ll be able to tell if they are. If your text comes across as plug-and-go or templated, it will immediately be clear to students that you didn’t take time to personalize the message to them specifically. Seniors are much more likely to respond if you send them an individualized message. Text reminders work because they reach students directly, but don’t take for granted the importance of personalization.

There’s no way around it, seniors in high school have a lot going on, most of which takes their attention away from important tasks at hand. Reaching students directly on their phones is the best way to get communication about important upcoming tasks and deadlines across in an effective way. With the right text content, strategy, and personalization tactics in place, you’ll be able to nudge seniors in the right direction. Help make their final months in high school a positive, less stressful experience by taking the time to send them important text reminders that show you care about their future.