Engaging Modern Learners for Life: a Comprehensive Learner-to-Earner Texting Plan

How colleges & universities can use conversational two-way text messaging to support modern students through the entire learner lifecycle, from prospect to alum

Why should you text students through every phase of the learner-to-earner lifecycle?


Giving students a great experience for just a few years — during their time enrolled in a traditional undergraduate program — is not enough. The world’s top institutions thrive, in part, because they engage earners for life, from pre-enrollment to graduation and beyond.

That’s because recruiting students to apply and enroll requires nurturing prospects. Likewise, alumni must be nurtured in order to motivate them to donate and promote your institution to younger generations. And keeping your institution top-of-mind, as alumni look to upskill and reskill, is crucial to promoting enrollment in your Continuing Education and Workforce Development programs.  

Engagement in each of these stages should involve distinct strategies, tailored to students' unique concerns, challenges and interests at the time. But one thing should be consistent every step of the way: clear, compelling communication. 

Enter two-way conversational texting: text messaging that goes beyond one-way alerts to engage learners in back-and-forth, real-time, responsive communication. 


No matter the demographic, including age, the vast majority of American adults — 97 percent — currently own a cell phone. It’s even higher among those ages 18-49.

Yet, not all messages sent to cell phones are being seen; emails average a mere 20 percent open rate and 6 percent response rate. Texting dwarfs that, with a 98 percent open rate and 45 percent response rate.

So, a texting strategy is crucial to any institution of higher education — and the departments within it — looking to communicate with and engage learners for life.

Ready to get started on building your strategy? In A Higher Ed Guide for Designing Text Messaging Campaigns, we outlined how various departments and personas can use text messaging to meet their goals. 

Here, we’re giving you a different, eagle-eyed view: a plan for engaging students through conversational text-messaging — from prospective learner to confident earner. We’ve included ideas for each year of a traditional undergraduate program, plus suggestions for engaging prospective learners, incoming students and alumni. 

It’s more than a four-year plan. It’s a plan to engage learners… for life.

Texting Prospective Students Throughout the Application & Decision Process

Why should you text prospective students?

Texting prospective students is a great way to make them feel connected to your institution before, during and after they apply. You can answer information about your institution, gently nudge them to complete tasks and celebrate their accomplishments within the application process. 

Subjects to text about:
  • Upcoming college fairs 
  • Opportunities to tour the campus
  • Steps within the admission process, including FAQs and deadlines
  • Information about academic programs, housing, financial aid and campus life
  • Your institution’s campus maps and/or virtual tours
  • Opportunities to connect with current students or alumni
  • Job market data and career pathway information
Example texts:
  • Introduce: Hi Sacha, this is Meghan from SV College. 👋 Thanks for requesting more information about our undergraduate business school program. It’s an awesome program! What questions do you have?
  • Nudge: Great news, Sacha – an admissions rep, Jonah, will be visiting your high school next Tuesday. He’d love to meet with you to help you finalize your application & answer your qs about SV. Can you make it?
  • Encourage: Congrats on your acceptance to SV, Sacha!!  🎉 We’re thrilled for you. 🥳 How do you feel?
  • Inform: Sacha, have you decided on a college yet? Check out this FAQ for students admitted to SV, here: [link]. I hope you’ll join us here in DC. 🤞Go Tigers! 
Bonus idea:

Encourage prospective students to sign up for texts that will remind them of application next steps. You can create a simple form on your admissions website, invite in-person visitors to sign up after their campus tour, or pass around a form at college fairs.  

Once you’ve collected names and phone numbers, pre-schedule texts to send students reminders about deadlines and other helpful tips every few weeks. 


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Texting Students Before their First Semester 

Why should you text admitted students before they matriculate?

Texting incoming students is a smart way to establish the culture of texting that will continue during their time at your institution. You can send vital information and reminders to complete their enrollment, connect them with other students, and get them excited and confident for their first day. By aiding students in the final enrollment process, texting can even prevent summer melt!

Subjects to text about:
  • Reminders to sign up for orientation
  • Local events for incoming students and their families
  • Social media groups and pages for students to engage with 
  • Steps for applying for campus housing, sending final high school transcripts and submitting vaccine records, among other enrollment steps
  • Registering for classes
  • Information about move-in day and/or parking and public transportation options (ideally customize this information depending on if the student will live on campus or commute)
  • Placement tests
  • Introductions to their resident advisor, academic advisor, orientation leader and other key contacts

Example Texts:

  • Introduce: Hi Sacha, I’m Lorenzo — a junior majoring in history at SV College. I’m also a student orientation leader. 🤓You can read all about orientation & sign up for an overnight session here: [link]. Lemme know if you have any questions!
  • Nudge: Hey, Sacha! The deadline for registering for orientation is just two weeks away and spots are filling up fast. Is there a certain week you’re most interested in? I can help secure you a spot. 
  • Encourage: Wahooo, you’re all set for orientation! 🎉I can’t wait to meet you. 🥳 Check out this suggested packing list to get ready. [pdf attached]
  • Inform: Hi Sacha! This is Danielle, your RA. It was so great to meet you at orientation…and I can’t wait for you to move into Goodman Hall. 🙌I ’ve attached an FAQ to help you get ready! 

Texting the Summer Melt Away

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illustration of an ipad with the title page of the Summer Melt whiepaper

Texting First-Year Students

Why should you text first-year students?

Texting new students is an effective way of supplying guidance during this exciting, yet challenging, time. Students may be overwhelmed by your website, their email inbox and campus fliers, but personalized information sent right to their phones can cut through the noise and help them feel supported by the institution itself. 

Subjects to text about:
  • Commencement
  • First-Year Experience programs and opportunities
  • Students clubs and organizations
  • General education course requirements
  • First-year seminars
  • Upcoming campus events and virtual programs
  • The institution’s student engagement portal
  • Using students support services, such as academic advising, the career center, disability services,  mental health counseling and tutoring
  • Academic deadlines, including adding or dropping courses and declaring a major
  • Tips to help improve a low GPA
  • Student government elections
  • Surveys, forms and focus groups
  • Peer mentorship programs
  • Applying for campus jobs, including work-study programs
  • Co-curricular opportunities, including high-impact practices
  • Parents and families weekend
  • Summer internships
  • Faculty office hours
  • Move-out information
Example texts:
  • Introduce: Welcome to SVC, Sacha! 🤗 This is Miranda from the Student Activities office. I’m excited to share info about campus events & answer any qs you might have. Feel free to text “stop” if you’d prefer to opt out.
  • Nudge: Sacha, Have you heard about SV’s First-Year Experience Program? It’s a great way to keep the fun of orientation going all semester long. The details are here: [link].
  • Encourage: First semester = done. 🙌 Congrats!!! How do you plan to celebrate? Attend our annual holiday party, maybe? [attached flier] 
  • Inform: Did you know that the Career Center has sessions designed just for first-year marketing majors like you, Sacha? Text me back & I’ll put you in touch w/ the perfect advisor to tell you more.

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Texting Second- and Third-Year Students

Why should you text second- and third-year students?

Year two and three are often the most challenging for students, as their courses become more rigorous and the pressure to excel increases. Texting provides them with a direct, reliable line to acquire about and receive information on campus resources that can support their success. It can even help prevent students from stopping out or transferring to another institution.

Subjects to text about:

Many of the same subjects as year one, plus…

  • Welcome back 
  • Resetting academic expectations
  • Second-Year Experience or Third-Year Experience programs
  • Interventions for students at-risk of stopping out
  • Mental health resources
  • Study abroad information
  • Renewing FAFSA 
  • Transfer student communities and support services
  • Completing community service hours
  • Research opportunities alongside faculty 
  • Teaching assistant opportunities
  • Switching and/or declaring a major or minor
Example texts: 
  • Introduce: Hi Sacha, it’s  Greg, your SV College advisor. 👋 I hope you’ve been enjoying the summer! Are you ready to register for fall classes? You can book an appointment with me [here] if you’d like to discuss it. We can video chat!
  • Nudge: Hi Sacha, let’s set up a time to talk about your current semester + plans for the future. What day next week will work best? Set an appointment with me here: [link] or text back to schedule it.
    Encourage: Good luck with your exams, Sacha! You’ve done a great job this semester. 🥳 Do you have any questions about summer courses?
  • Inform: Happy Friday, Sacha! Quick reminder: Registration for summer courses opens in 3 days. Learn how it works here: [link]. 

Meet the Modern Campus Message Playbook for Stop Outs

Seamlessly blend one-to-one text messaging with automated nudges and responses, to innovate and elevate campus communication, and re-enroll students who have stopped out.

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Texting Students During their Final Year: 

Why should you text students in their final year?

No matter how well-adjusted a student has become to academic and student life over the years, their final year — whether it’s year four, five or beyond — will bring new challenges. Your texts can guide them through the graduation process and, perhaps even more importantly, set them up for career success.

Subjects to text about:

Many of the same subjects as years one, two and three plus…

  • Fourth-Year experience programs
  • “Adulting” programs
  • Senior awards and recognition opportunities
  • Resume review, interview practices, networking events, career fairs and other career-starter opportunities 
  • Grad school opportunities, including application steps for your own institution’s programs
  • Continuing Education and Workforce Development programs, especially at your own institution
  • Steps to apply for graduation
  • Information about delaying graduation/completing additional requirements
  • Graduation agenda and ticket information
  • Cap and gown pickup
  • Graduation congratulations
Example texts:
  • Introduce: Hi Sacha! This is Ariel, a senior career counselor with the SV Career Center. Congrats on reaching your senior year! 🎓I’ll be sending you some tips and reminders to help get you get ready for graduation  and start rewarding career. 
  • Nudge: Do you have a resume, Sacha? The Career Center is holding a series of resume workshops, starting next week — including sessions specifically for business majors like you! Here’s the info [PDF attached]. Would you like me to sign you up?
  • Encourage: I’m so glad you attended our mock interview night, Sacha. You did great! How do you feel?
  • Inform: Hi Sacha! How’s the job search going? 🔎Did you know that I can also help you write a cover letter? Let me know if you’d like to book a time together. 

Texting Alumni:

Why should you text alumni?

Texting can be the catalyst for delivering on a mission to engage learners for life. No matter how far away your alumni may live from campus, they’ll almost certainly still have their phones. You can use texting to stay in touch about local alumni events, giving opportunities and continuing education options. After graduation, your institution will no longer be a center of your alumni’s lives but, through texting, their connection — and eagerness to engage — can remain strong. 

Subjects to text about:
  • Alumni events — local, virtually and on campus
  • Joining alumni networking groups, including on social media
  • Requesting the alumni newsletter or magazine
  • Annual giving day and other donation events
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Opportunities to connect with or mentor current students
  • Alumni interview programs
  • Campus news and announcements
  • Lifelong learning opportunities
  • Continuing Education and Workforce Development programs
Example texts:
  • Introduce: Welcome to the South Florida SVC Alumni group, Sacha! I’m Freddie. I’ll occasionally text you about alumni opportunities that may interest you. Text “stop” to opt out. 
  • Nudge: Hi Sacha–SVC is just a few thousand dollars away from meeting our Giving Week 2023 fundraising goal. 🤞Donate by tomorrow @ [link]. 
  • Encourage: Thanks for contributing to Giving Week 2023! Your donation will help SVC continue to grow. 🚀 I’d love to know: what inspired you to donate?
  • Inform: Sacha, South Florida SVC Alumni just published its calendar for the next 3 months. There’s an ice cream social, a networking event for business majors like you, and more! 🍦💼 Check it out here: [attach pdf flier]. 

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Ready to design texts that engage students from application to graduation and beyond? Download our free guide here or below.


You'll find advice on scheduling your texts, and designing a texting cadence to compel students to take action — plus example messages for:

  • Admissions officers
  • Enrollment management
  • Alumni engagement
  • College access organizations
  • Continuing Education leaders
  • Financial aid officers
  • Student affairs professionals
  • ...and more! 
a higher ed guide to text messaging campaigns- download now


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