Text Messages Used as Tool to Keep Students on Track for College

By Caralee J. Adams — May 23, 2014 2 min read

If you want to get in touch with a teenager, you text.

Counselors, too, are finding text messages can be an effective way to get important information about the transition from high school to college into the hands of their students.

The practice is getting some traction following research by Benjamin Castleman of the University of Virginia and Lindsay Page of the University of Pittsburgh. They found personalized and strategically paced text messages during the summer after graduation can improve college-matriculation rates, particularly for at-risk students. And, given the low cost—about $7 per student, by one estimate—it’s also a cost-effective strategy to address the “summer melt” when students can drop off the radar without school support.

I take a closer look at this research and several texting initiatives in a new Education Week story.

From urban programs in New York City to a new pilot targeting rural students in West Virginia, texting is seen as a promising strategy to gently remind students of deadlines to fill out financial-aid applications, complete housing forms, and register for classes. Most initiatives also offer more support beyond the text messages for students who need it.

Those working to ease the transition note that there is often a shift in mindset from high school—where counselors are holding the hands of students until graduation—to college, where students are expected to be independent. Texting can be a way to maintain connection during this change in support systems.

Linda Swanson, a counselor at South Sioux City High School, in South Sioux City, Nebraska, said that after nine months of ongoing support in the college process, she noticed that over the summer, some students didn’t follow through with their plans once they were not in constant contact.

Swanson explored ways to stay in touch with students through social media and texting, attending a workshop through EducationQuest, a nonprofit in Lincoln, Neb., aimed at improving access to higher education, and tapping into the expertise of her own teenage daughter to learn about Twitter.

Last year, Swanson gave seniors an exit survey at graduation practice for the first time and asked to share their cell phone numbers so counselors could keep in touch by phone or text. Ms. Swanson also began communicating with students on Twitter and Facebook.

“Some were nervous at first that I would follow them on Twitter, but I said ‘I don’t want any more of your drama.’ I do not follow kids back through the guidance Twitter page,” said Ms. Swanson.

Counselors tweet about scholarship deadlines and students text to set up times to pick up transcripts. Social media and texting have proven to be a good way to get students to come in for help, and, surprisingly, underclassmen, not just high school seniors, have responded, she added. College-going application and enrollment rates are inching up at the 1,100-student South Sioux City High, as well, she said.

“I’m always amazed at what the next thing is. There is always something new coming—Snapchat or Vine or Instagram,” said Ms. Swanson. “We have to keep up with technology, make sure it’s appropriate, and respond.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the College Bound blog.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read