Is Text Messaging An Appropriate Recruiting Vehicle?


Many college recruiting organizations have resisted using text messaging as a recruiting tool – with good reason.  Text messaging is a much more personal form of communication and when used improperly can be perceived as invasive, resulting in ill feelings and a resistance to further communication.  Yet when used properly, it is a powerful tool.  As our guest author points out, the average teen receives nearly 3,000 text messages every month – and 97% of them are read!

Janelle Herman, our guest author, is a college senior on track to graduate in May.  Not only does she live in the generation and culture of text messaging but, because she is both smart (finishing a 4-year degree in 3 years) and a talented basketball player, she was recruited heavily.  I invited her to write an article on whether text messaging should be used to recruit prospective students and if so, how.  Here is what she had to say …

“Many seem to think that recruiting through texting may be an invasion of privacy. However, being a student that was previously recruited through text messaging, I feel as though it was a very effective and relational means of communicating information to me. Yet it was also important that it wasn’t abused.  Let me explain.

Text messaging has become the language of this generation, and at the time of my recruitment, I saw those who had taken the time to send me a text as having cared enough to reach out to me on an individual level.

Receiving a text message was a great deal easier than taking the time to see what was waiting to be opened in my mailbox or e-mail. If I received a text message via cell phone, it was not going to be ignored. A study by Mongoose Research, revealed that the average teen interacts with 2,899 text messages per month compared to just 191 phone calls. Of these vast amounts of text messages, 97% of them are read (1). What would happen if 97% of your university’s recruitment information was not only opened, but also read?

Texting also created an easy and comfortable way for me to ask questions about the university in a less intimidating fashion. Instead of having to take the time out of my day to call for information, I was able to simply text any questions I had.

Texting may be a viable tool of communication in the recruitment process, but it is still extremely important how an admissions team chooses to use it. It is very important to keep in mind that before a text message is ever sent, some form of relationship must have already been established with the student. This will open the door for the student to feel valued and give them the opportunity to see the relationship as continuing through texting.

It is a good idea for the university to have all prospective students chose whether or not they would like to be contacted in this manner.  Whenever I received a message from a college I had never previously spoken with on the phone or in person, I felt as though they were crossing a line. They were reaching me through a personal means of communication, and yet, they had no idea who I really was. On the other hand, when a member of the admissions team had already contacted me in a more appropriate way to establish an initial relationship, I acknowledged the text as the furthering of that relationship.

Updates that are sent through text messaging need to be relevant and valuable to the student. Any form of advertising may have a negative effect in turning the student away from the university. Make it personal, and reach out to the students as individuals. After sending out a helpful or important alert, wait for the student’s reply. If even a ‘thank you’ is received, it may be an indication that texting is an effective means of communicating with that individual.

Text messaging is a very effective way to recruit today’s prospective students, and I would definitely recommend using it – but be sure that before you do, you have made the effort to connect with the student on a more relational level. Go about the process in a thoughtful manner, and learn to speak the language of today’s generation, reaching them through a means of communication with which they have become so accustomed.