When It Comes to Scholarship Communications, Don’t Ghost Your Students

A critical barrier today’s students face as they navigate the scholarship journey is poor communication. Not all students are from the same generation, and Gen Z students don’t consume information in the exact same way as Millennials, Gen X, or certainly Baby Boomers. Unfortunately, far too many institutions rely on one or two communication channels to drive traffic to their scholarship opportunities and to complete the process. To achieve maximum potential reach, schools need a 24/7, multi-channel approach that is both personalized and automated. For schools looking to make the switch to smarter scholarship communications, here are the five best channels to use in concert and how best to use them for your scholarship communication strategy. 

Email 

Emails, really? Yes, really. Email is still relevant, and they supplement the channels that follow. The pitfall of relying on email alone has always been that students don’t read them. There is certainly some truth to that. I am guilty of writing long emails myself. It helps me to remember, “The more you write, the less people read.” The problem isn’t the platform; it’s the usage.  

For example, don’t send an email blast to students telling them an application will open next month and keep an eye out for future email notifications. This only leads to future emails getting ignored. Email blasts are impersonal, not timely enough to create urgency and lack a specific call to action. An email about an application opening is best sent on the day the application opens. That means you’ve got a specific call to action that students can act on right away—Apply here now!  

Communicating important information to your students that requires detailed explanations will also be more effective if the call to action leads students directly to the task or an information page. Webpages are more effective than long emails for creating engagement, personalization and driving action.  

Texting 

Play off of the short and sweet principle of effective communications: Text messaging can do it all (almost.) Texts have not entirely replaced emails, but they certainly have become the preferred method of communication, especially for Gen Z. Texting is more effective at driving action thanks to three factors.  

Texts are concise

They feel personal. Anyone and everyone can blast our email inbox but not everyone texts us. When we receive a text message, we expect it to be relevant and for us, and us only.   

Dopamine. Which feels better to you? Receiving an email or a text message? I think we all know the answer. Texts are nearly guaranteed to be read. 

Social Media  

Speaking of dopamine, think about why social media platforms are so popular. Promoting scholarships on social media is fine, but do not expect it to be the main driver for program awareness and process completion. Social media is always evolving. Remember Friendster and MySpace? Even Facebook and Instagram are facing a changing world. Younger generations use Facebook less but Instagram has recently come under fire for being harmful to mental health. Social media requires the right timing, the right message, and one important reminder: Not all students use social. So, go ahead and create a fun scholarship campaign, but utilize the other communication channels as well because social has its limitations if used by itself. 

Virtual Assistants 

Did you know 47% of students expect to interact with a chatbot? This shouldn’t be surprising as many customer service experiences utilize chatbots. Customer questions don’t only exist between 9 AM and 5 PM, and they don’t only get asked in English. Students are used to getting multilingual customer service on-demand, off-campus and are coming to expect it on campus as well.  

When a student wants to know about additional funding opportunities or scholarships, do you have a chatbot that will tell students where to go and when to act? Does it tell them they’ve already been matched to opportunities and whether they want to see them now and apply? This is next-level communication and one that is only going to increase in importance. 

Touch Points 

Today’s students aren’t from the same generation, and they’re not all at the same stage of their academic journey. Some students are planning for college, and some are incoming, but many are already working toward their degrees. That’s why it is important to have a communication plan for continuing students, not just incoming ones.  

For instance, many institutions have many donor-funded scholarships for continuing students, but do those students know that? When I went to college, I did not get a scholarship to attend, so I assumed that was it. I did not hear about scholarships after that point.  So, make sure you are putting calls to action wherever your students are. This might be on your Net Price Calculator, your Financial Aid notifications, your class registration portals, your departmental websites, or anywhere your students are already going to complete school-related business.   

The number one reason students do not enroll or complete their degree is financial. So, don’t ghost your students when it comes to funding communications.   

About the Author

Ken Downs, Product Evangelist

Evangelizing how technology and best practices can remove friction for students, schools, and organizations in the scholarship and financial aid space, Downs is CampusLogic’s Product Evangelist. He was instrumental in leading the development of the University of Arizona’s national award-winning ScholarshipUniverse product, now part of CampusLogic’s platform. A longstanding member of the National Scholarship Provider’s Association, Downs has given workshops titled: Big Data and the Coming Scholarship Sea Change, Scholarship Hacking, and the Scholarship Universe Story.

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