Steps to Success: Q&A
What’s the mission/purpose of your organization/department?
Building upon the aspirations and skills of the young people we work with, the mission of Steps to Success is to enhance educational outcomes for students from low-income families in order to defeat the cycle of poverty.
How do you measure student success?
We measure our students’ success by whether or not they are able to break the cycle of poverty and become financially independent and secure. We work with students to help them pursue post-secondary education or training that will help them achieve this goal.
What was the problem of challenge that led you to a texting solution?
We have traditionally had a difficult time reaching our college-aged students because they are far spread on different campuses. Students don’t typically answer phone calls or respond to emails, so we started using texting a few years ago. However, this was labor-intensive process done on a small cell-phone screen. We sought out Signal Vine because we needed a way to track our texting as well as make it more efficient for our advisors.
How do you collect participants’ phone numbers/information/consent?
We have all our students fill out an intake form when they begin in our program. We also give students the option to opt out by replying ‘Cancel’ at any time.
How do you plan the timing and consent of your text messages?
We work based on the academic calendar, so our messages are tailored to what is happening in college at a certain time. For example, in January, we remind students that the FAFSA is live. We keep each message short and to the point with an action item for students to complete. If more information is needed, we add a shortened link to a webpage. We try to send about 1-2 messages a week and space them out so that students don’t get a ton at once. We are also cognizant of the fact that students don’t want texts during class or work, so we try to time messages accordingly.
Who on your staff responds to text messages, and how often do they check their inbox?
Both of our college advisors respond to messages in their caseload. We will check the inbox as regularly as we would work email and always have Signal Vine open in a tab. If needed, we will also check periodically during weekends or vacations.
How has texting impacted the student/staff relationship?
We texted before Signal Vine, so this is hard to say. Texting does give us an easy way to quickly check in with a student informally. It makes the student/staff relationship one that is easy for a student to navigate and trust.
How have students responded to texting?
In surveys, students have ranked texting as important as face-to-face advising in their relationship with staff members. Students appreciate texting, but only if the messages apply to them and frequency is reduced to only necessary messages.
What advice would you give to other organizations thinking about implementing a text messaging platform?
Text messaging really improves relationships between advisors and students. Students will come to your organization with questions more often if they know they can get a quick and easy response.
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