Promise Scholars: Helping Students Enroll Through COVID
Promise Scholars: Helping Students Enroll Through COVID
COVID ups the stakes for Promise Scholars
The Promise Scholars team supported first-generation and other marginalized students by anticipating information needs and obstacles that students would have as they moved through their student journey. In addition, Promise Scholars staff and ambassadors partnered with colleges across the region to provide support services through virtual workshops and social media.
Promise Scholars serves students who are in the final college decision-making stages through Signal Vine. However, with the onset of COVID, students across the country who planned to enroll in college faced more challenges.
For instance, this past spring, roughly 20% of all students didn’t have access to the technology required for online learning. Colleges across the country moved to emergency remote and online learning because of the pandemic. In turn, this enabled an extra barrier to form in terms of college enrollment. Even worse, low-income students, who already faced more barriers to enrolling than higher-income students, found it even more difficult to enroll because of income changes, family obligations, poor financial aid packages, and fears related to the virus. This resulted in a lower college enrollment rate across the board.
Prior to COVID, Promise Scholars’ most valuable asset was the ability to be available in person and to anticipate what students would need and when they would need it. When COVID hit, there was no roadmap for students, staff, families, or colleges to follow.
Texting was a natural next step
Promise Scholars serves students from elementary school to college. Due to COVID, they focused on their highest-risk students: the seniors who were on their last leg of their college-bound journey.
Promise Scholars needed insight into what these seniors were really needing. They also needed a platform that could help them reach those students and provide them with support to enroll.
To help, Promise Scholars added polling to the informational messages they sent to students. Sending polls through texts gave the Promise Scholars team a sense of what was top-of-mind for their students. Further, it opened up a communication channel to provide support in the areas that students needed most. Plus, they were able to take those insights and use the previous anticipatory strategy to reach out to the non-responsive students.
The ‘temperature check’ poll asked students on a scale of 1 to 5 how they were doing in general. (Note: these were students that they already had deep relationships with over a number of years).
For students who texted back a ‘3,’ Promise Scholars reached out and connected them with the right people and resources. All students with 1s and 2s were instantly moved into a triage mode and were called. This poll helped Promise Scholars to continue helping students enroll through COVID. They could identify barriers and offer students the personal support they needed.
Promise Scholars’ COVID insights
Three things stood out from the student responses that the Promise Scholars received:
- Students were overwhelmed with information from everyone. Promise Scholars were cognizant about the amount of information they were providing to students. This was vital in a time when information was always changing. In other words, Promise Scholars didn’t want to disengage students by sending them too much information.
- Promise Scholars came across students who wanted to fill out the FAFSA but didn’t know how to. These students lost access to in-person resources during COVID spring. Thus, via text, the team was able to guide students through the FAFSA process step by step.
- Students were at different steps in the college application process and had many follow-up questions for staff. Through a series of interactions, Promise Scholars quickly noted the issues and then escalated the student to the appropriate specialized support. This enabled staff to empower students with helpful resources when the student was ready to use the support.
About Promise Scholars
A partner to several regional colleges and universities, Promise Scholars supports students from kindergarten through college to achieve postsecondary and workforce development goals. Serving more than 20,000 students and 1,000 parents in the Ontario-Montclair and Chaffey Joint Union School Districts, Promise Scholars supports students on their journey to and through higher education with financial guidance, career development activities, and guidance through personal challenges and opportunities.
Through a partnership with National College Attainment Network (NCAN), Promise Scholars added texting as a channel to support students through the college search and application processes. Promise Scholars decided that using Signal Vine as part of their outreach made the most sense since students were already familiar with texting and students were largely unresponsive to emails. Instead, they wanted to meet students where they were – their phones.
If you’re inspired by Promise Scholars’ methods to reach students and want to explore texting’s potential in your organization, read this blog on how texting can improve a college student’s journey. Or, if you’re interested in learning more about Signal Vine, request a demo here.
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