By: Jessica Lisenba, IEP Campus Coordinator

I felt prepared coming into my first fall semester as a study abroad advisor and had a strategic plan for everything I wanted to achieve. What I wasn’t prepared for was the immediate rejection from students.

Emails didn’t work.

To manage my student leads, I typically send out emails to try and schedule advising appointments with them. I was warned to not get discouraged when students didn’t respond to emails. There would be many who wouldn’t respond. I convinced myself I wouldn’t get discouraged, until it started happening. WHY won’t they respond? Was I flooding their inbox with cheesy phrases? Was the subject of the email unappealing? Study Abroad is truly a life changing experience, who wouldn’t want to come in and chat about their options?

Calls didn’t work.

In one of my weekly check-ins with my boss, I mentioned that I was emailing all of these students and barely getting responses. Then, he said the one thing I had been trying my hardest to avoid: Call them. All I could think about was that I would be that annoying salesman that people hang up on. I didn’t want to be the annoying salesman. However, as an advisor, you sometimes have to go out of your comfort zone to make things happen. So, I swallowed the frog and started calling students. Out of the 10 calls I made, 2 students answered. Something has got to give!

Texting?

I spent a few hours brainstorming on how I could reach out to students. Before I started at IEP, I was an intern at a university with an IEP representative. I remembered him periodically texting students about deadlines and payments. Texting the students? My initial thought was that texting them draws some sort of line. Are we allowed to text students? Is it weird to receive texts from study abroad advisors? Turns out, you can totally text your students. Somewhere through the process, they provided their cell number and opted-in. Fair game.

I decided to give it a try. I focused on students that had shown interest at an event or came in for advising appointments in the past, but still needed that extra nudge. In my first phase, I text 34 students. Out of those 34 students, 20 responded, 7 scheduled appointments, and 4 of them applied for programs…..in the same day. A 58% response rate, that’s INCREDIBLE. It was a game changer.

How to text your students

You may be thinking “I don’t want to give out my personal number to students.” You don’t have to. If you are tired of spending way too much time and energy on crafting emails and listening to those horrid voicemail messages, I have the tools for you to not only save time, but also get responses.

Step 1: Google Voice. This feature allows you to make calls and send SMS messages. You can batch-send messages without it being a group message, for up to 5 numbers at a time. All from your computer! The responses come in like emails, so you’re not getting notifications like you would if you text them from your personal cell.

Step 2: Keep the message sweet and simple, then end it with a question. The message I sent out was “Hi, this is Jessica from the Study Abroad office. Are you still interested in going abroad? When are you free this week to chat?

Step 3: Sit back and watch the magic happen. You will be amazed at how quick these students will respond. Not all responses are positive, but at least you know who to take off your list and move along. 

I asked the students who came in for advising appointments how they felt about me sending them a text. Each of them said that was their preferred method of communication and that it wasn’t weird at all.

Text your students. Go for it. You may be surprised at the outcome.