Applying to college, and then deciding which college to attend, can be a tumultuous and stressful time for high school students. Research has proven that texting students throughout this process can increase student success, and is a relatively inexpensive and effective way for educational institutions to guide students along their journey. AdmitHub uses artificial intelligence to provide instant support to hundreds of thousands of students. Most recently, I was managing conversations by text messaging with 30,000 prospective students about their college plans. I learned a great deal while having back-and-forth conversations with so many students in such a short period of time, and wanted to share some of the lessons I learned.
1. Students are curious and will inevitably ask questions
Applying to college and understanding acceptance packages can be complicated, especially for students that don’t have a support network. For many, it signifies a major decision that will have a lasting effect on the rest of their lives. Naturally, it causes confusion and anxiety, so it makes sense that when you send text messages to 30,000 students, you should expect thousands of questions in return. The key to easing their stress is providing quick, helpful feedback, and connecting them to the appropriate human and online resources when needed. AdmitHub’s AI is an admission officer’s best friend, handling over 90% of incoming questions within seconds, thus giving students meaningful and reassuring information instantly and freeing up valuable staff time.
2. Conversations differ based on where students are in the application process
Some of the students I connected with were trying to figure out how to apply, while others had already submitted their application. Many of these conversations were around deadlines, and asking how to get an application fee waived or their chances of admission.
When a student has already applied, he/she wants to know what’s up next, and they also start asking more questions about the college and its culture. Many students want to know about life on campus, as well as information about specific programs, what the dorms are like, or even the most popular eateries near campus. On a given day, interested prospects may send 50 messages in an effort to learn more about the college they’ve applied to and what they can expect if they are admitted.
3. Send texts to one batch of students at a time
With 30,000 students to engage, it seems easier to send a text message campaign en masse, but it’s actually more effective to start with a smaller group. By beginning the campaign with around 1,000 students, you can learn what common questions they are asking and prepare for the much greater influx of student questions. If a question isn’t yet recognized by the artificial intelligence and isn’t already in the Knowledge Base, you can add the proper response so that when one of the next 29,000 students asks that particular question, it is answered instantly. By engaging with hundreds of thousands of students, our college partners are informed of the many questions students ask, but there are always new questions that will be added over time. The more students engage, the greater the Knowledge Base grows, and “smarter” the AI becomes.
4. Students are awake at all hours of the night!
Many of the conversations we have with students are in the 8PM-1AM and 6AM-9AM timeframes. We’ve even had a student conversing about ACT test scores with their virtual assistant at 3:30AM! Students are delighted to get instant replies from their prospective college when they wouldn’t even expect their best friend to be that responsive over text message. This is especially helpful to college admission staff, who obviously aren’t working 24/7.
5. Students love a good GIF
Our virtual assistants can send MMS (images) and GIFs (animated videos), and when colleges utilize them, students almost always give an overwhelmingly positive response. We receive countless LOLs, :), <3, even reciprocal emoji. One virtual assistant Easter Egg that students have discovered is that Georgia State’s virtual assistant, Pounce, is a “Belieber.” Multiple students asked if their virtual assistant Pounce likes Justin Bieber.
6. Be proud of your work
One of my biggest motivators for updating the Knowledge Base and responding to student texts was knowing that I was making at least a small difference in someone’s life. For example, receiving a quick text about available financial aid can dramatically change a student’s mindset. That one message could be the reason a student decides to apply despite the sometimes daunting price tag. I experienced many students telling their virtual assistant that they couldn’t afford college tuition, and I remember how appreciative students were when they were informed of the available financial aid resources that would make a college degree attainable to them.
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