DWU Admissions: Streamlining Outreach to Students
Dakota Wesleyan University (DWU) is a small, private, liberal arts college based in Mitchell, South Dakota. This four-year institution offers nearly 40 majors and minors, including business, science, religious studies, education, and the arts. DWU serves nearly 900 students, and the student-to-faculty ratio is 12:1.
Before DWU Admissions became a customer in 2017, they were struggling to meet students where they were. They realized that phone call campaigns and emails weren’t reaching students. As a result, counselors were texting prospective students directly from their own cell phones. With the number of contacts this added, this proved to be an inconvenient strategy to reach students. First, it created physical strain on staff members to text from their phones for hours a day. Second, staff members were less than happy to rely on texting students from their own personal phone numbers to conduct outreach.
In other words, DWU staff knew that they needed to work on streamlining outreach to students. However, they needed a system that wouldn’t clog up their personal contact lists or require a phone charger after they manually texted hundreds of students.
DWU’s Admissions Department turned to Signal Vine to begin texting students mid-year. Since they were already texting students manually through the counselors’ cell phones, these counselors texted students and nudged them from their new number. That way, the students would have a seamless transition to a new number.
Then, DWU Admissions staff sent links to students to help them through multi-step processes so that students had more support – and a greater chance of finishing what they needed to do. For instance, in the recruitment cycle, DWU sent texts to students to help them fill out the FAFSA and complete other application process. Mostly, counselors used the platform to build relationships between themselves and prospects.
Ultimately, DWU’s Admissions Department has improved their communications strategy by streamlining outreach to students. DWU has seen an increase in both student engagement and student participation in their events. For example, if a student is late to an event or appointment, DWU can text students and remind them of the event or appointment. This has been especially helpful during visit days. Staff can text information to prospects and let them know exactly where to go once they make it to campus.
The core concept that DWU’s Admissions Department has adopted into their texting communications strategy is to ensure each message sounds as though it’s being written in real-time by a real person. In other words, DWU uses texting language that makes it obvious that each text was written and sent by a human. As a result, this has helped DWU combat students’ concerns that they were just getting an automated message.
Another strategy DWU notes as being successful is only using automated messages when needed – usually, every few months. Staff primarily use it for direct and relevant communication to individual students to avoid overwhelming them with too many communications and text messages. In this way, DWU is able to be more authentic in their messaging strategy and promote their efforts to build relationships with students and prospects.
In admissions, we must use a multi-pronged approach to communication. We will have general information that needs to go out to keep prospective students informed and moving along the admissions process, but we reserve texting for relationship-building and one-to-one communications as much as possible. Signal Vine has made that process much more manageable for the counselors. They are able to keep the conversation going throughout the recruiting cycle on their desktop and on their phone in the evenings.
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