Summer Nudging

Personalized Text Messaging to Increase College Going Among Low-Income High School Graduates

Our first foray into using text messaging to improve educational outcomes came in the context of an outreach campaign to reduce summer melt.

Students have to complete a complex array of tasks during the summer after high school, and many these tasks are sequential. For instance, if students are late in completing the FAFSA or are flagged for verification but do not realize it, they may not receive their financial-aid award letters until well after high school graduation.

Beginning in summer 2012, and in subsequent summers, we designed and implemented text-messaging campaigns to address summer melt. The texts remind students about tasks they need to complete, like registering for orientation, and encourage students to write back and request assistance with more complex tasks, like choosing a tuition-payment option.

The summer-melt texting campaigns cost only a few dollars per student to operate, but generate substantial increases in college-going. For instance, a texting intervention we conducted in Lawrence and Springfield, MA, increased enrollment by over ten percent.

Read the full paper on our summer 2012 summer nudging text experiment here.

We also conducted a 2014 replication, in which we also tested the impact of messaging parents. Read that paper here.

For a practitioner's guide on addressing summer melt, visit here.


Summer Nudging