Are We Speaking Our Students’ Mobile Language?

June 30, 2016 Tracy Skochil

You wouldn’t speak to a student in Latin. And you wouldn’t send a telegram to advise them of a decision on their financial aid application. But are the ways we are reaching out to students just as foreign and antiquated to them? We’re all in the business of getting financial aid into the hands of students that need it. We owe it to them to reach out in a way they understand.

Mobile Isn’t Just for Facebook

We don’t have to tell you that young adults live with their smartphones and tablets in hand. They have the highest mobile device ownership rate of all age groups. It’s easy to say they’re only using these devices for social media. (Because they are. In a big way. Eighty-eight percent of college students use Facebook, 58 percent use Instagram, and 55 percent use Snapchat). But that’s just a tiny sliver of the story.

They are using their mobile devices for some major life tasks. Ninety-seven percent of 18- to 29-year-old smartphone owners use their phone to browse the internet. They are getting most of their news on social media. They rely more on smartphones and tablets to access health, banking, job, and educational information than any other age group.

A Unique Identity

So, today’s college students are digital natives, with their main source of information always at (or in) hand. And they see this connection to technology as a badge of pride and a symbol of identity: a quarter of millennials think it’s what makes them unique. Are we respecting that identity and reaching out to them—our target audience—in the very way that makes them distinct?

Studies show that more than half of college students agree that technology makes them feel more connected to other students, instructors and to what’s going on at the institution. More than 60 percent access college websites on their mobile devices at least once a week. They are using their phones and tablets to schedule campus visits, take virtual tours, even submit their college applications. A University of Central Florida study showed students wanted an app for the school portal, which contains academic, admissions, financial aid, and housing information.

Speak Their Language

When you consider the above facts, it’s clear how financial aid offices, and higher ed in general, should be reaching out to our clients.

  • Want to spread the word about something? Do it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.
  • Services need to be mobile-optimized. That means websites should be easily viewed and navigated on smartphones or tablets.
  • Toss those paper forms in the recycling bin. Today’s student wants the ability to submit forms and other information pieces online—preferably from mobile devices.

It’s not about just being hip with the new technology. It’s about fulfilling our common goal: making education possible for today’s college students.

Read more about mobile device trends >

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