How College Admissions Teams Can Use Automatic and AI Texting
Reaching potential students first should be a primary goal for any college or university. The data is clear that when a student reaches out, they’re most likely to enroll with whichever school gets back to them first. AI texting may be an effective way to win that race to first contact. It’s also still a developing technology.
Currently, automated texting works best for transactional purposes, like acknowledging a request for inquiry or scheduling a call with an enrollment coach. As the technology develops, so will its potential applications. Colleges and universities can plan ahead to make the most of new developments while keeping the student experience at the center of their decisions.
What is AI Texting?
AI texting is a term used to describe SMS messaging that uses artificial intelligence. Today, the software is mostly used for transactional communication, but that will likely change as AI technology evolves over the coming months and years.
Many enrollment teams are using some form of automated texting. Most often, the templates for those texts are written by people. Then the software uses information from enrollment databases to customize and send the message.
Using automated texting takes a task off the enrollment coach’s plate. They don’t have to compose and send a text to each student. It can be a fully automated process based on the student’s status in the system.
How Colleges Enrollment Teams Use Automated Texting Now
Today, college enrollment teams use texting in several ways. The majority of these uses happen during the transactional parts of the inquiry and enrollment process. AI tools are most useful for:
- First contact follow-up
- Off-hours responses
- Application management
A closer look at each of these uses reveals the value AI texting can bring to the enrollment process.
AI Texting Can Help Colleges Be First To Contact
AI texting can help to facilitate speedy responses to requests for information. Texting works best in combination with a first outreach phone call. Since students are sometimes hesitant to pick up the phone right away, adding texts can increase the contact success rate. Over the last couple of years, engagement rates for that initial text message to first-time inquiry students is really growing.
That first text is designed to move students toward more substantial interaction by offering them the opportunity to schedule an initial enrollment interview with their coach.
Texting does not replace that first phone call, but it does create more touchpoints. Ultimately, the combination allows students more agency over their experience. They can choose to answer the phone, respond to the voicemail, or use texting to schedule a more convenient time.
Automatic texting is particularly valuable when the inquiry comes in after hours. Enrollment teams may not be available at 1 a.m. when the potential student finishes their swing shift, but texting can still help the student move the process forward.
Automatic Texting Can Respond During Off-Hours
Inquiries may roll in overnight, especially for high-volume programs. Before automated texting, the enrollment representative would come in each morning to a backlog of prospective students awaiting initial contact. With automatic texting in place, the student could receive a customized message within seconds of sending their inquiry.
An example message might look something like this: “Hi, [student name], I got your request for information about the [program name] program. An enrollment coach will be in the office at 9 a.m. EST and will reach out to you as soon as possible. In the meantime, if there’s a specific time you want to connect, please let us know.”
Depending on the sophistication of the SMS solution a program has in place, the software may even be able to offer specific time slots and help the student schedule a first call. This meets the student’s needs and frees enrollment advisors to spend less time on transactional communication and more time on meaningful advising.
Automatic Texting Can Reengage Inquires
Texting doesn’t just help with initial engagement, it can also support reengagement with applicants who fell out of the process for some reason. If potential students don’t respond to phone calls and emails even after sending an initial information request, enrollment advisors continue to reach out to them. This can be a time-consuming effort.
Texting is a low-demand way to keep trying to connect with that potential student. It enables teams to work a higher volume of older inquiries without adding internal staffing resources.
Support Students Through the Application Process
After the enrollment interview is complete, the student moves back into a transactional phase of the enrollment process. To complete their application, they will need to provide a number of documents and application materials over a period of several weeks. At this point, texting becomes valuable once again.
Rather than scheduling a series of interviews with the student to check on each phase of the application process, the enrollment advisor can schedule texts to check in with the student before each item is due.
Texting offers the students reminders and support without infringing on their time more than necessary. This may be especially valuable for the many applicants who are working or have caregiver responsibilities.
The Future of AI Texting for Enrollment
So far, AI texting has been most useful for the transactional steps in the application process. The more transformative steps, where students learn about the program and whether it’s the right solution for them, are better left to people. But that might be changing.
AI technology’s dramatic evolution over the last few months leads us closer to a time when AI can guide those more transformative conversations. When the time comes, colleges and universities will need to make some choices about where and how they will use the new technology.
- Do you need to disclose to the student that they are communicating with a bot?
- What kinds of communication are we comfortable receiving by SMS?
- Are there specific points in the enrollment management process that are best up to an individual enrollment representative, even if the technology is available?
There may be security considerations or privacy considerations that need to be addressed. Programs should understand how the information sent via SMS and used by AI may intersect with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). If programs consider these questions now, they can be ready to respond as technology advances.
Considerations for AI Texting as Technology Evolves
Now and into the future, students will have certain expectations for different communication channels. In general, people expect a near-immediate response to SMS and chat-based communications.
If text messages are managed by AI, the system needs clear parameters for when and how to move students toward a phone call or email solution. For responses that are managed by an individual admissions coach, that coach needs to be able to prioritize inbound text messages to meet the student’s expectations. Prospective students should also have the option to schedule calls with a real person if they prefer.
Overall, the goal of any enrollment management technology should be further the student experience. Students are making a significant decision for their future. They want to know that they have the support of real people as they make this life-changing choice.
At EducationDynamics, we help prospective and current students achieve their goals by supporting them from consideration through graduation with Success Coaching. From rapid-response phone calls and SMS messaging to email and zero-dial voicemail, our caring higher education experts use the latest technology and proven models to build meaningful connections with prospective students. Contact us today to learn more.