How do you get students to complete their FAFSA? You text them.

BRB G2G fill out my FAFSA

Text messages are an increasingly popular—and effective—way  to communicate with students, writes Catherine Gewertz for Education Week.       

The Common Application (Common App) is one of the organizations pioneering the method. According to the Common App, roughly 900,000 prospective students use the website to apply for college. Out of these students, around 60% require financial help to pay for college, meaning they must fill out the FAFSA to be considered for state and federal aid.

Because some schools offer aid on a first-come, first-serve basis, and missing the form's deadline could make a student ineligible altogether, it's vital that prospective students are reminded of dates and deadlines.

Reminders this year are particularly important, since the FAFSA is available for the first time in early October, rather than its previous date of early January. To spread word of this update, the Common App sent text messages to nearly 500,000 students. 

Why texting your students isn't coddling

Another organization that's hopped on the texting bandwagon is Michelle Obama's Better Make Room Campaign. Through Better Make Room, students and families can opt into Up Next, a feature that sends out a series of texts asking important questions, such as how the college search, application, and financial aid processes are going.

The feature continues to text students once they've officially enrolled in college, at which point the texts focus on helping students connect with campus resources. Post-graduation, Up Next sends texts about loan repayment.

Proven practices for nudging prospective students to finish their materials

Texting students isn't just a shot in the dark on behalf of these organizations—a study by Benjamin Castleman, assistant professor of Education and Public Policy at the University of Virginia and Lindsay Page, research scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh, shows the text method actually works to boost college-matriculation rates and make sure accepted students actually end up enrolling.

Castleman is also teaming up with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) to test a method that takes texting one step further.

Castleman and THECB are creating texts catered to specific groups of students. One group, for instance, will receive texts reminding them to reapply for financial aid every year, while another group that withdrew before graduating will receive texts designed to re-engage them (Gewertz, Education Week, 10/11).

Nudge your students in the right direction

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