How do you grab students’ attention when you’re ready to introduce them to new, paperless, financial aid processes?
- Use multiple communications channels
- Make messaging short, sweet, and urgent
- Create excitement/buzz
That’s what Matthew Metz did at D’Youville in early 2017. He knows that the key to managing change on campus is communications—and lots of it.
The ‘Rule of 7’ Gets Students to Act
Metz is no stranger to motivating student engagement. He’s been at D'Youville in Buffalo, New York, since 2003—and is now the Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management. Last year, as Director of Financial Aid, he oversaw the implementation and rollout of StudentForms, part of the CampusLogic student financial services platform.
When it came time to explain to 3,000 students how to create their new online FinAid accounts, he flipped on as many communications channels as possible—and introduced paperless financial aid as a cornerstone of the school’s “go-green” initiative. Email messaging, notices on the school website and student portal, an array of social media posts, and ground-based events were all part of his integrated rollout strategy.
Metz presented “How to Make Student Communications Stick” at NYSFAA last year, using many examples from that rollout and explaining The Rule of 7—the idea that students need to see a message at least seven times before they’ll take action. “Whether you have 3,000 or 30,000 students, this theory holds,” he says.
Messaging for Different Media—and Audiences
The school’s social media team was enlisted to help drive the rollout/adoption strategy well in advance of the 2017–18 school year, Metz says. Twitter messaging was short, sweet, and urgent:
“Attention Students: Don’t miss out on all the financial aid you’re eligible for! Create your StudentForms account…”
Meantime, Facebook posts explained more—and engaged parents, too:
“Attention Students and Parents: Paperless forms are now available from D’Youville’s Office of Financial Aid…Benefits to students and parents include completing verification directly from your phone or computer, the ability to e-sign documents, and receive reminders about uncompleted tasks…”
The calls-to-action on emails and social media link directly to a “Forms” page, encouraging all FAFSA-filing students to activate their accounts. This special landing page on the school’s financial aid website connects with D'Youville’s sustainability initiative by directly calling out this new, paperless process.
The Financial Aid Office also hosted several pop-up events—including an ice cream social—to promote its new easy, mobile, personalized FinAid processes. At some events, gift cards were given away to lucky account-creators.
“We had a lot of fun trying to communicate about, and incentivize, account-creation," he says. “We wanted to show everyone that this isn’t some kind of boring, old financial aid process.”
Success! A Sweet Student Financial Services Experience
Ice cream and prizes aside, students are now getting a real treat, according to the feedback Metz has received. They love the self-service, no-hassle environment that StudentForms provides, he says. Easy image-capture and upload—combined with the convenience of e-signature—has parents expressing their satisfaction with the new process, too.
Better still, StudentForms means Metz’s staff have more one-on-one time with students because it streamlines and simplifies the process for everyone, he says. “Now we have more time for meaningful conversations about aid and about how we can help.”
Matt will be a panelist at NASFAA 2018 in Austin this summer. Add his session to your agenda!