Create messages that 'nudge' students in the right direction

Successful push notifications are encouraging and customized to each individual user

Julia Haskins, staff writerJulia Haskins, staff writer

It's orientation season, which means students have a nearly overwhelming list of to-dos to cross off in the next few weeks.

Administrators try to help them with emails and text messages, gently reminding them of deadlines and items left to finish. A recent HubSpot blog post by Amanda Zantal-Wiener offers valuable insight for writing reminders and notifications that work.

Focus on positive messages

There's a reason that health and fitness apps have the lowest opt-in rate for notifications: they shame users who aren't totally engaged. But correcting behavior isn't a matter of finger wagging. Write reminders to students that encourage the "correct" behavior—rather than scolding or shaming them.

Tell students why it's important

People love airline apps because they are so valuable for users. Reminding passengers when to check in for their flights is a simple, but extremely useful, service. You can borrow this insight: When writing your reminder, think about how it will add value to your student's experience. Make sure your message clearly explains what's in it for them.

"What students really need is for someone to elevate the signal above the noise and show that you know what matters to them," says Annie Yi, an expert in student communication at EAB.

Meet students where they are

Pay attention to geographic location. If students can knock out multiple tasks while they're in that far corner of campus, then let them know. And be sure to tell students about different services they can access right where they are.

Let students personalize

Users are more likely to engage when messages feel customized. Let students easily opt in or out of notifications that are relevant to them.

Increase applicant conversion rates through text message nudges

Track their progress

It's easy to get distracted when using multiple apps at once. A user may be in the middle of one task when another notification pops up, and without a reminder, that task may never get done. Grocery shopping app Instacart sends users a friendly reminder when they abandon their shopping cart before checking out. The same approach can be applied to getting students to finish what they've started.

Don't keep them waiting

The point of a notification is to provide information quickly and efficiently. So if students can't immediately act on the message, consider whether it's really the best time to send it (Zantal-Wiener, HubSpot blog, 9/5). 

Learn how Guide can nudge students toward improved behavior


  • Manage Your Events
  • Saved webpages and searches
  • Manage your subscriptions
  • Update personal information
  • Invite a colleague