The State of Texting in Higher Ed Recruiting


Should Text Messages Be Part of Your Communication with Prospective Students?

“My friends don’t text each other. They all use Snapchat.” That was my 15-year-old son’s recent attempt to convince us that he needs social media. Sure, his appeal is at least a bit exaggerated, but perhaps there is a hint of insight for us in thinking about communicating with Gen Z.

Social Media Messaging vs. Texting

The rise of social media for teens presents a valid consideration for college admissions professionals: If 67% of high school seniors are on Snapchat daily, is texting still relevant? For college recruiting, the answer is “yes.”

Recent data shows that only about one-fourth of seniors are comfortable receiving messages from a college on social media apps. The same report finds that more than three-quarters of those students were open to some form of text communication with colleges and universities and nearly half of seniors would welcome these messages.

Back to my son’s comment, notice that he said, “My friends don’t text each other.” As I scroll through the texts on his phone, it is obvious that this format is often used beyond peer communication—like messages from his youth pastor, his football coach, his grandmother, and me. Is he keeping up with these messages? Definitely yes. Could it be that texting is emerging as the channel for a student’s more “serious” communication?

Effectively Texting

Since texting is an under-utilized tool for college recruiters, it may be a way to stand out from your competitors. Here are some tips for how to make the most of this channel.

  • Keep in mind what students want to see in a text message. According to the report cited above, the top reasons they want to be texted are: acceptance notification, deadline reminders, and details about their applications. Avoid photos and videos, links to social media or websites, and webinar or live chat invitations.

  • Focus your texting efforts on students who have already expressed interest in your school. This is not your best tool for mass communication.

  • Never lose sight of the relationship you’re building. Whatever the statistics say, the personal touch still matters, and we often hear this first-hand from students on campus. Sentiments like, “I felt wanted here”—that’s what ultimately made the difference in their college decision.


Ruffalo Noel Levitz & OmniUpdate. (2018). 2018 E-expectations report. Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Ruffalo Noel Levitz. Available at