Why and how to take a mobile-first approach to your admissions communications, especially when looking to attract, engage, and enroll Gen Z students.
By: Kyle Freelander
Colleges and universities looking to improve their admissions process and boost enrollment need to take a discerning look at their communication strategy. While strategies like direct mail or email have a role to play, they can’t be your primary channels for reaching and engaging students, their families, and others involved in the decision-making process.
In this article, we cover what a mobile-first communication strategy is, the importance of mobile communications during the higher education admissions process, how to design and implement an effective mobile communication strategy for admissions (without bogging down your team), and examples of what this can look like at your institution.
What is a mobile-first communication strategy?
A mobile-first communication strategy is a multi-touch approach focused primarily on text messages to reach and engage audiences. With higher education admissions, this strategy seeks to engage multiple audiences (from prospective and accepted students to their families or other key supporters to alumni, staff, and beyond) throughout the decision-making process.
A mobile communication strategy is especially critical for colleges and universities looking to reach and engage Gen Z students. Effective mobile communications help institutions drive big results (like improved admissions funnels, increased application volume, and higher enrollment) through a multi-touch approach that ensures everyone gets the right information at the right time. For a mobile communication strategy to be successful, communications must be timely, interactive, personalized, and actionable.
Why does your college or university need a mobile-first communication strategy?
There are many reasons for higher education institutions to prioritize mobile communications like text messages, including goals around increasing student engagement and enrollment. Below are four key reasons to make mobile communications a key part of your admissions strategy.
1. Gen Zers are on their phones
One reason to tap into mobile-first communications when trying to attract Gen Z students is that they are on their phones…a lot. Nearly all (96%) of Gen Z own a smartphone, and 55 percent use their smartphones for five or more hours a day. In fact, 26 percent use their phones for at least 10 hours a day. Talk about a captive audience!
2. Text messaging / SMS is the most frequently used communication channel by Gen Z
It’s likely no surprise to hear Gen Z likes to stay connected via their phones, especially by texting. Research shows that 38.1 percent of Gen Zers said text messaging/SMS is their most frequently used communication channel, followed by email (17.1%) and social media (16%).
3. Students want text messages during the admissions and enrollment processes
When looking to reach prospective students during the admissions process, text message needs to be top of mind. Research shows that 9 out of 10 students are open to receiving texts during the enrollment process. Additionally, 78 percent of high school students would share their cell phone numbers with institutions, including 81 percent of high school seniors.
The timing of text messages also plays a key role. Recent research shows 62 percent of high school students prefer text messages after submitting an application, and 50 percent of high school seniors would prefer text messages after being admitted to an institution.
4. Text messages have higher open and engagement rates than other communications
One of the biggest reasons to leverage text messaging during the admissions process is because of key benefits, such as higher open rates — meaning your prospective students are actually receiving and reading your communications. In fact, 98 percent of SMS messages get opened compared to just 20 percent of emails, making this a critical channel to tap into. In addition, text messages are often opened quickly. Nearly 60 percent (58.7%) of people check texts within five minutes of receiving them.
How to implement a mobile-first communication strategy for admissions at your institution
Now that you know why a mobile-first communication strategy is critical for admissions teams at colleges and universities, it’s time to consider how to design and implement such a strategy. While this can feel like a daunting task — especially for teams that are overwhelmed or understaffed — StudentBridge’s solutions present an opportunity to quickly and easily get started with a mobile-first communication strategy for admissions teams and start driving meaningful results right away.
With StudentBridge’s suite of mobile-first student-lifecycle solutions, institutions can easily design interactive content cards for any audience (including students, their families, alumni, staff, and more) and then send them via text or email. Because there are no limits on the number of cards or audience segmentation, colleges and universities can design as robust a strategy as they need to suit their specific needs.
Below are some key examples of how admissions teams can leverage StudentBridge’s solutions to design and deploy an effective mobile communication strategy.
Admissions communications done right with the Accepted Student Experience
Getting students excited about officially enrolling in your institution relies on creating a memorable moment of acceptance. With a mobile-first communication strategy in place, you can text students as soon as they’re accepted — getting the announcement out quickly and making it easy for them to share the good news with their friends and community.
Additional opportunities to engage parents throughout the decision-making process, such as sharing financial aid information or making it easy to order institution swag, help ensure meaningful parent communications every step of the way.
StudentBridge’s Accepted Student Experience helps institutions easily tap into a mobile communications strategy to better reach and engage students while helping build excitement and drive enrollment.
- Quickly reach admitted students by creating interactive content cards and sending them via text message and email
- Build excitement and community with social media filters and effects, including new custom TikTok effects for the moment of acceptance
- Provide ongoing support at scale with personalized communications and two-way messaging
- Measure engagement — from opens to clicks and taps to survey responses, social media engagement, and beyond
Ace mobile-first communications for tours with the Campus Visit Experience
Another part of the admissions process where mobile communications are especially key is campus tours. Whether a student is just beginning to check out their options or has already been accepted to your institution, campus tours play an important role in their decision-making process (including whether to apply or ultimately attend your institution).
Ensuring effective tours every time in any format requires relevant communications before, during, and after tour day. For example, you can invite students to tour your institution, surface all of your tour opportunities (including personalized and self-guided tours), personalize the follow-up interactions based on visitors’ unique interests and needs, and ask for feedback about their experience to help you continue improving tours for everyone. Check out this infographic to see what a mobile-first tour communications strategy can look like.
StudentBridge’s Campus Visit Experience makes it easy to get your tour communications right while also delivering a memorable tour experience in any format (including virtual and self-guided tours).
- Ensure relevant tours every time with 24/7 access, unmatched customization, and a true tour experience from anywhere
- Increase access with virtual and self-guided tours that can be taken anytime, from anywhere
- Enable tour personalization based on visitors’ unique interests, needs, and more
- Boost engagement with a proven mobile-first communication strategy and interactive content card templates
- Measure what matters — including tour participation, engagement, and beyond
Engage parents as part of your mobile-first communication strategy
An often overlooked part of mobile-first admissions communications is engaging prospective and accepted students’ family members or other supporters. When you consider how involved families are in the college search and decision-making processes, it’s critical for admissions teams to effectively engage this audience every step of the way.
Two key points to consider: 80 percent of parents are very involved in the planning process, but only half said they received communication. Additionally, two-thirds of students said their parents have been involved in their college search, including parents of seniors (63%), juniors (66%), and sophomores (59%).
While both students and their parents note family involvement during the college search and decision-making processes, engaging parents with a mobile-first approach can feel challenging — especially for institutions not actively collecting and updating parent contact information.
Both the Accepted Student Experience and Campus Visit Experience from StudentBridge make it easy to engage family members and other supporters throughout the admissions and decision-making processes, even if you don’t have their contact information from the very beginning. These solutions work hand-in-hand to ensure a seamless communication strategy throughout the college search and admissions processes, helping build excitement and drive enrollment.
With the Campus Visit Experience, for example, students can text parent-specific tour invitations directly to parents, eliminating the need for institutions to have contact information up front. Once students are accepted, the Accepted Student Experience enables students to share the good news directly with their parents via text message, sending along an interactive content card designed specifically for the needs of parents and other supporters. These are just two examples of many opportunities to easily and meaningfully engage parents throughout the admissions process to help drive enrollment.
See how StudentBridge can help you achieve your mobile-first communication goals. Schedule a demo today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kyle Freelander (she/her/hers) is a passionate writer, former educator, and lifelong learner. She has taught English literature and writing courses in higher education, writing workshops in K-12 schools, and English and ESOL courses as a private tutor for students pre-K and up. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University and a BA in English (minor in Linguistics) from the University of Mary Washington. She currently serves as the Head of Content at StudentBridge.