- Nudges from counselors increase a high school senior's rate of completing college financial aid applications by 17%, and those students are 8% more likely to enroll in college than peers who do not receive such messages, according to a study published in the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis.
- Text-based outreach from counselors makes a difference because students could respond to them and receive direct support, according to the study's authors. The study surveyed randomly selected students from the Austin and Houston areas during the spring of 2015.
- Students who received texts were 20% more likely to enroll in four-year colleges and 9% less likely to enroll in two-year colleges than peers who didn't receive nudges. The lower two-year college rate may be due to more students opting for four-year schools after being made aware they were within reach.
Text messaging has become a powerful communication tool for schools. According to a report from Blackboard and Project Tomorrow, parents rank text messaging, school portals and mobile apps as their preferred way for schools to communicate with them.
Teachers are also using apps like Remind to keep students on track with assignments. At the college level, text-based nudges are being used to guide students' decisions and remind them of key deadlines and campus resources. Data gathered by the institution is used to determine which students need what information.
Additionally, research indicates nudges for college students may improve retention, increase enrollment and reduce summer melt. Some colleges are working with third-party firms, such as AdmitHub, to offer chatbots that can answer students' questions about how to fulfill basic campus requirements.
However, previous attempts to influence students' college-going behavior through nudges haven't worked at scale. But this study, along with another recent pilot that used nudges to improve STEM students' completion at community colleges, provides some of the first evidence that larger efforts can work if designed correctly.
At the high school level, some texting apps also allow educators to communicate with parents in their first language, reducing communication gaps. Text-based communication ultimately works best when students and parents can respond to texts to get further information.