Ben Castleman: Texting for Success

(Picture above) Bay Area mentors experimenting with texting in our North Bay office.

At Summer Search, we’re committed to providing students the best experience in their journey toward college success. A big part of that commitment means meeting students where they are. Well, one place they are, is on their phones, texting.

That’s why last year Summer Search partnered with texting platform technology company Signal Vine to launch a pilot program in the Bay Area aimed at helping our students take timely action on important milestones in their Summer Search journey and the college application process.

Each month, Bay Area Summer Searchers receive actionable, personalized messages that help them stay connected with Summer Search and complete key steps, like registering for their SATs, completing the FAFSA, and submitting a housing deposit for college.

And so far so good! Our Bay Area students are engaging with the texts, with 88% of them responding to messages they receive through the platform. In a focus group, we also heard from students that the messages are helpful reminders that prompt action, even when the students don’t reply to specific texts.

Backed By Research

Research confirms the benefits of texting. In a 2013 study, University of Virginia Professor Ben Castleman and University of Pittsburgh Professor Lindsay Page sent personalized text messages to remind students of college matriculation tasks. They found that texts substantially increased college enrollment among students who had less access to quality counseling.*

In fact, we reached out to Professor Castleman about his texting research, and he was kind enough to elaborate.

“My colleagues and I have conducted numerous studies since 2013, and we consistently find that using text messaging to help students navigate complex decisions at critical junctures in their postsecondary trajectories can generate substantial improvements in college access and success—whether it’s reducing summer melt, accessing financial aid for the first time, or renewing aid once students are in college.”

His research has been so impactful that it caught the attention of The White House! As part of her Better Make Room campaign, First Lady Michelle Obama recently released Up Next, a free new texting tool and program, led by Castleman, where students can simply text the word “college” to 44044 to get reminders about college-related deadlines and tips on the college admissions process.

Professor Castleman has high hopes for the program.

“I hope that Up Next helps any young American with aspirations to go to and succeed in college to access the resources, like financial aid, that are designed to support them, and to enroll and persist at colleges that are a great fit for their interests and abilities.”

At Summer Search, we do everything we can to help our students realize their dreams of college graduation. Nudging them via text message is just one more way we’re helping them reach their goals.