It’s more likely that prospective college students melt – or fail to enroll in college – during the summer because of lots of small obstacles rather than one large problem. Some students can’t meet a deadline because they have no transportation, others aren’t sure how to fill out forms, some aren’t sure how to get their medical records, and many simply don’t know who to turn to for answers.

Reducing the number of obstacles is key to getting more students to successfully become college students. It turns out that students appreciate a nifty text-messaging chatbot’s personalized guidance, nudges, and on-demand answers for helping them attend their first day of class.

You’re Accepted, Now What?

Most seniors revel in their last summer before becoming a full-fledged college student. That post-graduation time is filled with shopping for dorm supplies, going-away parties, tearful goodbyes, and making memories with friends and family. However, many soon-to-be college freshmen grow anxious trying to navigate the countless forms and steps necessary to attend their first day of classes.

Committing to a school in Spring is only the first step to guaranteeing their spot in the Fall. Without the support network of teachers, counselors, and other administrators from high school, many students are quickly thrust into navigating a complicated multi-step process with no sense of how to or who to ask for help. How do you get your immunization records? Where is orientation? Do dining halls accommodate peanut allergies? What do you mean a financial aid package wasn’t received!?!?

Each year, admission departments are flooded with these questions and complications from new students, racing to answer the same questions hundreds of times before it’s too late. “Too late”? Yes! According to a study by the Harvard University Center for Education Policy Research, anywhere from 10 to 40 percent of students become so discouraged by the number of hurdles that they “melt” and fail to attend in the Fall.

AdmitHub’s conversational texting chatbots with robust higher ed-specific artificial intelligence are now helping schools more effectively support students. Leveraging the most popular messaging channels for college-bound students like SMS text, the bots respond instantly, send reminders, guide them through complex processes, and add a personalized touch that reaches students right at their fingertips. Plus, the bot is fun to talk to, making students happy to message back and forth. It’s this joy that drives high levels engagement. This makes departments more powerful in meeting the desires of Gen Z – students now entering college – and solving thousands of small problems that end up leading to huge results.

Most importantly, the students themselves notice the difference in the personal feel that AdmitHub’s chatbots provide when nudging them, answering their questions, and getting them the help they need. Since the bots do all this without judgement or change in demeanor, students feel more open asking a chatbot questions they may have felt embarrassed to otherwise ask. To date, AdmitHub has messaged over 1 million students. Their chatbot is a guiding hand ushering these students from interest to attendance.

The Story of Austin Birchell

One compelling story is how the chatbot helped Austin Birchell. In his interview for NPR’s Hidden Brain, Austin shares how Georgia State University’s custom chatbot, Pounce, helped him avoid melting over the summer. As a first-generation college student with a single working-class parent, he knew paying for college would be challenging. Luckily, he covered most of the cost with Georgia’s Zell Miller Scholarship for academic achievement, his late father’s GI Bill, and financial aid from GSU. He was going to college!

He was excited to fill out all the necessary forms for housing, send in his deposit, and get his immunizations. That enthusiasm faded when he was notified that a single incorrect digit in his Social Security number prevented one of his scholarships from going through. He hit a roadblock just as he was about to arrive at his destination. As a first-gen college student, none of his family dealt with something like this before, and he didn’t know who he could turn to for guidance after high school.

When Austin didn’t know what to do, he reached out to Pounce. The chatbot provided immediate responses that empowered Austin to get the problem resolved. It told him to come to campus to sort out the situation, even explaining what office to go to. When he arrived on campus, everything was fixed within a few hours. With his financial aid back, his seemingly astronomical bill shrunk before his eyes. His mother cried tears of joy. He and his mother headed straight over to pay his very affordable tuition bill.

Austin’s story caught the attention of the of another tech-minded organization. He was contacted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to find out how the chatbot helped him. They asked him to be part of a documentary about various initiatives at Georgia State. On the last day of interviewing, he was in store for one more surprise. He. Met. Bill. Gates! Not only did Gates ask Austin several questions about life at GSU, Austin showed Gates how to use the chatbot on his phone.

Bill Gates Texting with Pounce GSU
Austin Birchell and Bill Gates texting with GSU’s chatbot, Pouce

The timing of Pounce’s assistance was crucial. If Austin had to endure a series of phone calls and escalations, several “I don’t knows”, multiple visits to campus, or some other lengthy, complex process, he may not have attended school that Fall. Because the chatbot gave him the information he needed, when he needed it, he’s now proud to be a Political Science major and work in Public Relations and Communications Marketing at Georgia State.

What Other Students Say

While commonplace tech like email management systems and queueing software allow admissions departments to add a level of organization to communicating, it’s rare that they meet communication preferences of Gen Z. These systems fall short of conveying the culture and personality of the school spirit. Chatbots can bring that personality to life for students 24/7.

AI in Higher Ed

Many students have experiences similar to Austin’s with the chatbot. When other students were asked for their thoughts on interacting with the bot, they said, “It was the easiest part of enrollment,” “It’s faster than any other assistance format,” and “It helps keep you on track and reminds you of important info needed and things you may have missed.” By allowing students to feel comfortable asking questions without feeling judged or making them laugh during an anxious time, the bot is fantastic at guiding students through the complicated processes that lead to attending school.

Messages are sent throughout the entire student lifecycle so that students have relevant information in front of them when it’s most valuable. If a student has expressed interest in the Fall, the bot can give them a proactive nudge to let them know applications deadlines are approaching. If they receive a message that part of their application is missing, the bot provides them the information on who to contact to resolve the issue.

Higher Ed Texting Chatbot

Just as important as being helpful, the bot isn’t “robotic.” Students feel they’re communicating with someone that understands their needs. Students have said, “It makes the enrollment process more personal.” Beyond the personal touch, the bot also establishes trust. Some students have even said they prefer talking with their chatbot over a human because they “didn’t feel judged” by asking “simple” questions. Perhaps students’ real feelings are shown in the simplest way, because the most common student message is “thank you.”

It seems surreal. An AI chatbot that cares just as much as admissions staff about supporting incoming students. Chat with our virtual assistant Oli and request a demo to find out how AdmitHub can help students go from college aspirations to college graduates.