How AI Entered My Life

Matt Summer  |  April 30, 2018

I entered the college admission profession 27 years ago, when the internet was non-existent...like, not even discussed or thought of (except in Al Gore’s imagination haha). I kept a file box with all of my prospective students printed on paper slips with handwritten notes scribbled all over them.

 This box sat next to my larger-than-life state maps with high schools highlighted. The fact that I am now a proponent of conversational text messaging that incorporates artificial intelligence is, in and of itself, a miracle.

Over the years, I worked for a variety of higher ed marketing companies - one professed the power of print, the next company said print was dead, and yet another declared CD-ROMs the future of college recruitment. 

 Then print was back in fashion, CRMs took over, and texting was something to be avoided. Retargeting, Geo-fencing, and social media were the new ways to reach students. Surrounding the student with messaging in hopes of capturing their attention has been the way of the admissions world forever.

Oddly enough, embracing AI led me to the epiphany that the best way to recruit and influence a student was to speak directly to them. Crazy, I know.

Students are on their phones most of their waking hours. Admission offices have their phone numbers, so why not engage them in the format they prefer? Probably because it would require your entire staff to commit all of their working hours to managing text messages and answering questions. Staff should be utilized for high impact, personal interaction with students, not responding to “what’s the deadline?” text messages over and over and over again.

 And this is when I became a convert to artificial intelligence.

As admission offices get more comfortable with text messaging, they are using it to remind students of deadlines, encourage them to file their FAFSA, invite them to campus events, etc. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be friends with someone who only speaks to me and not with me. As colleges understand this, they are then confronted with the fact they are working for their text messaging service, it is not working for them. One school I know of did the math and realized they needed to hire 14 full-time employees to manage their text messaging program. Kind of crazy when you realize you can keep your staff at its current level, take over 90% of the questions they are asked daily, and automate them with a friendly, personal AI Mascot Bot.

This is what AI does. Artificial intelligence sounds too smart, too creepy, and too sophisticated to be a funny, chatty, interactive buddy that talks to students 24/7. But that’s just what it is, and the interaction leads to increased yield, decreased summer melt, improved retention, and boosted staff efficiency. AI is now a big part of my life and should be part of your college.

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Topics: College Admissions, colleges, retention, recruitment, artificial intelligence, enrollment

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