Learn how the largest university in the Carolinas used texting as a key tool in their first-year orientation programming.
North Carolina State University is a public research university in Raleigh, North Carolina. Founded in 1887, it’s currently the largest university in the Carolinas.
With orientation going virtual in 2020, the Office of New Student Programs needed a way to reach students with the information they would normally share face-to-face.
Texting successfully provided an additional connection point between the university and first-year students and families.
First-year orientation is one of the most exciting times for freshmen attending college around the country.
From meeting with their advisors to registering for classes, those few precious days are packed with everything first-year students need to know about their new home.
But when COVID-19 hit, it left universities scrambling to turn what was once a crucial in-person experience into a virtual one.
For Molly Basdeo Mountjoy and the rest of her team at the Office of New Student Programs at NC State, the solution came in the form of a dedicated office text line.
We’ll share their tricks for:
Part of NC State’s virtual orientation was hosted almost entirely through Zoom. They hosted Zoom webinars and meetings to replace sessions that were in person.
While Zoom was perfect for hosting large meetings, Molly and her team knew that they would need another way to communicate with students to make up for the lack of face-to-face communication
That’s where texting came into play.
“Students could email us for sure, but if there was an immediate need, texting was a way for us to get information to them quickly,” notes Molly. “If a student is locked out of a Zoom session, we were able to send them the information they needed in that moment so they weren’t missing any information in the Zoom session.”
And so, the plan to text-enable their virtual first-year orientation was born. The next step was to share it with students. Molly and her team accomplished this in a few different ways.
In no time, their subscriber list began to fill with questions from incoming students:
6,000 questions is a lot for just one person to answer. The team at NC State needed a way to give everyone on their team full access to the platform simultaneously.
Thankfully, SimpleTexting’s teammates feature not only lets you assign additional users to your lists, but it gives you the option to assign specific conversations to different teammates as a way to stay organized and see who handled what chats.
With their text line open during business hours Monday through Friday, all 18 staff members could log in to the SimpleTexting dashboard at once to field questions as they came in.
“Teammates was helpful because we have so many different people responding to questions, and if one of our student leaders saw a question that they couldn’t answer, they could assign it to the office account for a professional staff member to answer. We could also assign conversations to specific student leaders if there were questions that came in about their specific college or an activity they were more familiar with than others,” notes Molly.
Now that the fall semester has begun, NC State’s Office of New Student Programs is still using SMS to communicate with first-year students.
Molly and her team have shifted to focus more on sharing reminders about upcoming events and programming for first-year and transfer students and directing students to the right resources to navigate all things first-year.
“Originally, we weren’t sure if people would want to keep receiving texts from us after orientation. So when we sent out the first campaign I was anticipating so many people unsubscribing, but most people stayed subscribed”
For Molly and the team, it’s all about self-efficacy.
Their goal is to create self-sufficient students who can find the right people to reach out to on-campus outside of the New Student Programs team.
However, no matter what, students know they’ll be there, one text away, to help them navigate through that first year.
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