There is value in authenticity - and students trust other students.
If your job is engaging with students, you know it’s a full-time challenge. Colleges and universities are always looking for better ways to reach prospective students and help them navigate the enrollment labyrinth.
One proven and effective strategy is utilizing current students as a guide!
No one can better relate to what soon-to-be high school graduates are going through than someone who just tackled the task. Plus you’ll have the added benefits of:
- Staff taxed with fewer frequently asked questions
- Prospective students hearing directly from someone they relate to
- Cross-campus engagement that strengthens your community
1-on-1 conversations are powerful
If you’re interested in a science degree, would you rather talk to a counselor or someone who is currently in the program? Your current students know more about classwork, professors, and opportunities, so it makes sense to enlist them as student mentors.
Hi, <NAME>, I’m <STUDENT NAME>, a student at <SCHOOL>. I saw that you expressed interest in attending <SCHOOL>. What part of going to college are you most excited about?
French novelist Jean Giraudoux famously said, "The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you've got it made."
Of course, leaving the conversation to student mentors allows your school to be sincerely sincere. Even if you’re the best admissions counselor in the world, you can’t match the perspective of a current student when it comes to topics like the course load of a desired major, school activities, and campus atmosphere.
Mentorship reduces student stress
It’s only the most important decision of their lives, so high school students trying to pick a college while also making sure they ace final exams can be distracted or difficult to engage. Student mentors can be a comforting presence amongst the chaos.
A simple text can go a long way.
Hi <FIRST NAME>! With the year winding down, this will be the last text I send before your college journey begins. You’re almost to the finish line! It was a pleasure being your mentor, and I’m a text away if you have any questions. 😁
Sharing the workload
Not all texts should be handled by students. When a prospective student wants to know detailed or personal information, such as their enrollment status, communication is better left to admissions counselors or the appropriate staff member.
Harvey Werner, the Director of Undergraduate Admissions/International Admissions at Loyola University New Orleans, says that when their student-interns come across a message that is beyond their scope of expertise, they are trained to make sure it gets in front of the right staff member.
“They answer the basic messages in the inbox. If a prospective student asks what they’re missing or what they need to send in, the students know to look up transcript information and pass it along. They’re handling the FAQ stuff and that keeps us from getting flooded with generic questions. But the students will forward us questions that are really specific or above their level.” - Harvey Werner
Shared Inboxes increase efficiencies
There are concerns and liabilities that come with allowing students to text other students, it’s a delicate balance of authenticity and professionalism.
With the Shared Inbox feature in the Cadence texting platform, staff members have the option to monitor and/or edit messages to ensure they are consistent with the school’s strategy and values. Basically, you can keep an eye on the outbox.
Shared Inboxes make it possible for multiple team members to manage a single texting account. This helps eliminate duplicate messages and also ensures prospective students are getting the answers they need as quickly as possible.
Student texting works throughout the lifecycle
Johns Hopkins University has a mentorship program through their Office of Orientation. While it’s directed toward current students instead of prospective students, the work of the Johns Hopkins team shows how effective student texting can be.
The Office of Orientation planned a schedule of helpful outreach texts and assigned one upper-class student, Kai Abiola, to send the texts to first-year students. Under this mentorship program, the school saw a 30-40% response rate for text messages.
Brittany Claridge, the Assistant Director of Orientation & First-Year Experience at Johns Hopkins University, feels that students are comfortable with Kai because she’s going through the same challenges they face.
“There’s some trust that Kai’s perspective brings where students might say, ‘I trust Kai’s opinion more than I trust a staff member’s opinion.’ Kai knows what it’s like to be here in this moment. She knows what programs are actually helpful. Students trust that she’s not putting a spin on what she’s telling them.”
All in all, if your school supports a prospective student, you’re going to make a lasting impression. And that goodwill goes beyond admissions. You’ll have new students feeling supported, comfortable and confident about their decision before they even walk into their first class.