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Higher Education Mass Texting: Use Cases, Examples, and More

Hundreds of higher education institutions have turned to texting to communicate with their networks. Learn why and how they do it right here.

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According to the ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 95% of undergraduates own a smartphone.

And while email may have been the standard method of communication over the last few decades, more than 3/4 of all college students now prefer to receive information from their educational institution by text message.

Not only is texting gaining popularity as the preferred communication method in higher ed, it’s also becoming the most efficient.

  • Less than 25% of emails are opened, yet text messaging consistently sees a 98% open rate.
  • Educational emails receive around a 5% CTR compared to text messages 50% CTR.
  • It takes an average of 90 minutes to receive a response from an email vs. 90 seconds for texts.

With the inclusion of extended SMS and MMS messaging, which allows you to add rich media as well as up to 1,600 characters of space, texting is no longer the limited messaging platform of the early 2000s.

Curious about how texting may fit into your university’s operations? Wondering how you would go about introducing SMS to students, parents, and faculty?

We’ve got everything you need to get started right here.

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Higher Education Mass Texting Use Cases

Your school’s SMS strategy will entirely depend on your audience.

For example, you can use your school messaging system app to share things like emergency alerts and campus-wide announcements with everyone.

You could also segment your audience into more niche groupings like first-year orientation programming, admissions, athletics, or even use texting as a research or polling tool.

Once you nail down who you’ll be communicating with and why, the scale of your communications plan will become a lot clearer.

There are no major limits to what you can use texting to accomplish—but in working with hundreds of educational institutions each year, these are some of the most common use cases we encounter.

Admissions Texting

Many colleges use texting as a way to reach prospective students. Some common practices include:

  • Scheduling tours via SMS
  • Connecting students with admissions officers
  • Answering general admissions inquiries
  • Sending reminders around application deadlines
  • Connecting new and existing students with on-campus resources

[Read: South Arkansas Community College Uses SMS To Connect With Students]

Hello! I’m Candice, a recruiter at JMU. I see you expressed an interest in our University. I’d love to answer any questions you may have and help set you up with a tour 💜💛.

Campus-Wide Alert Messages

If you need to reach students with alerts (emergent and/or non-emergent) texting is one of the fastest ways to get your message read. In seconds you can send out a mass text alerting students, staff, and parents of:

  • Campus security or safety alerts
  • Inclement weather notifications
  • Campus closures
  • School-wide event information
Attention all UNC Rams: Due to the forecasted snowfall all classes and school-sponsored events will be canceled today 1/15. Visit our event calendar for updated hours & information here:

Alumni Relations

Keep engaged alumni networks alive and informed with text updates on topics like:

  • Fundraising campaigns
  • Speaking events and opportunities
  • Campus newsletters
  • Homecoming invitations
  • Regional networking events
Hello DC Dukes! Our annual alumni lunch is fast approaching. Be sure to grab your tickets now! All proceeds will go towards our Dukes helping Dukes scholarship fund!

How to Get Your Higher Education Institution with Mass Texting

Mass texting at the scale you’d need for a college can’t be accomplished with just a cellphone.

You need the assistance of SMS messaging software to help you reach audiences both large and small.

A text marketing provider will set your institution up with a text-enabled phone number from which you can send text blasts, segment your contacts into groups, facilitate one-on-one conversations from the inbox, and more.

When it comes to getting started, here are a few of the most important things to note:

  • Texting is permissions-based: This means folks who share their cellphone number with you must have provided express written consent to receive text messages from you.
  • Use keywords to gather subscribers: One of the easiest ways to collect phone numbers is by inviting students to text in a keyword—a short word or phrase that, when sent, subscribes you to receive further messages. An example could be: “Text HARVARD to (833) 445-7686 to join our campus alerts program.”
  • Utilize web forms and permission boxes: Another simple way to gather phone numbers is by incorporating it into existing information collection practices. For example, add a checkbox to orientation information forms for new students to signify permission to receive messages from you.
  • Visibility is key: In order for your SMS programs to be effective, people have to know they exist. Be sure to promote your keywords and phone number liberally across campus to get as much buy-in as possible!

Once you’re up and running and have started to grow your subscriber list you’re ready to start sending messages!

And what better way to see this step in action than through a case study.

Higher Education SMS Case Study: NC State Orientation

NC State University is the largest university in the Carolinas. And when COVID-19 turned their typical first-year orientation programming on its head, they needed a virtual substitution for in-person communication.

SMS became that solution.

The first step was to let students know how to get signed up for the orientation texts. They did this a few different ways:

  1. Keyword Promotion: During their live orientation, they used a slideshow as the primary visual aid. Anytime presenters were at a pause or between sessions, they had a slide go up that said “Text “[Keyword]” to 833-* to ask questions.”
  2. Student Leaders: All student orientation leaders who led breakout sessions shared the keyword and phone number during their time with new students.
  3. Website: All students were directed to the NC State website to log on for their orientation sessions. When they landed on the homepage, there was a banner with their keyword, number, and instructions to text them with their questions.

Throughout the course of orientation, their team used SMS to share program and event updates as well as answer individual student questions.

6,672 student questions in one week to be exact!

To learn how they made it all come together, read the full case study here.

And to learn more about getting started with SMS for higher ed, check out our guide to school SMS software.

Meghan Tocci
Meghan Tocci

Meghan Tocci is a content strategist at SimpleTexting. When she’s not writing about SaaS, she’s trying to teach her puppy Lou how to code. So far, not so good.

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