5 Ways to Connect with Off-Campus Students via College SMS

Student lying on grass with phone in hand reading college SMS message

Off-campus students are an important population for colleges and universities. By some estimates, around 87% of college students live off campus. In emergency situations, like COVID-19 pandemic, all students live off-campus. When students are temporarily or permanently separated from on-campus student life activities and hubs, it’s critical to ensure that they feel connected with your school. Enter college SMS. 

Students are busy, whether they’re on or off campus. They don’t have time to read or answer all of the emails from your school. But SMS is a different story. With a 98% open rate, texts are far more likely to reach your students. Plus, business text messaging is more effective and efficient than other channels. College SMS platforms empower administrative and academic teams to send, receive, and organize thousands of student texts—after students have opted in to their institution’s SMS program, of course. 

Read on to learn 5 ways to connect with off-campus students via college SMS. 

Send General College Updates

Your administrative staff has basic content they send out regularly. These might include holiday reminders, exam updates, or emergency notifications. In times of intense change, like the COVID-19 pandemic, start-of-term and safety procedure updates are common, too. 

College SMS platforms help your staff send these messages quickly. First, staff members can create a template, leaving space for custom fields. Then, they can select which list of students to send the text to. Once your staff members select “send,” your college SMS platform will use merge tokens to personalize each outgoing message with custom field information. 

A template might look like this:

Hi, {{first name}}! Great news. Bay Area University is starting its semester on August 5! We’ll ask you to move onto campus August 1. {{Advisor name}} will reach out to you with more details soon. 

College SMS makes it easy to send key information to your student body quickly. Keeping students up-to-date, even if they’re off-campus, is critical to making them feel like they’re in the loop. 

Encourage Mentors to Have SMS Chats

When they’re off-campus, students may feel less inclined to chat with their advisors or mentors. College SMS makes it easier for mentors to reach out—and off-campus students to have quick chats that might resemble casual office visits.

Set up each of your departments with a shared inbox. Every student message that comes into the inbox will be seen by all permissioned staff members. Advisors or mentors can send check-ins individually or to a list of advisees, then reply individually to students who want to continue the conversation. 

Advisors or mentors can send:

  • Personal check-ins regarding projects or goals
  • Research or internship opportunity information
  • Departmental news

Regular communication between mentors and off-campus students will help them feel connected, even if they can’t stop by for quick chats. 

Share Fun Content 

On-campus students see a lot of themed content on campus. From holiday decorations in their dorms to good luck banners in the dining halls, they pass fun content each day that emphasizes their part in the community. Student and resident life teams can use SMS to help off-campus students feel like they’re part of the community, too.

College SMS platforms offer tools like personalized mass messages, like we’ve mentioned before. But these platforms also empower your teams to send pictures, videos, emojis, and GIFs, too. For the best effect, consider consulting your work-study students for content. You can also ask work-study students to manage the messages entirely, under light supervision. 

Both administrative and departmental teams can use college SMS to send:

  • Welcome notes or videos during the first week of school
  • Words of encouragement during midterms or finals
  • Holiday or special occasion greetings
  • Video summaries of on-campus events

With the addition of fun content, off-campus students will feel more connected to your school than ever before. 

Host SMS Events

Student life and resident life teams often focus on on-campus events. From pancake nights to salsa lessons, these fun events help on-campus students feel like a community. SMS events can help on-campus and off-campus students come together. 

For college SMS events, mass messaging and shared inboxes will be useful. Teams can relay information via mass text, then receive replies within the shared inbox. These tools facilitate a wide array of SMS events. 

College SMS events can include items like:

  • Trivia night. Your team can send out texts with trivia questions. Students both on and off campus can text in their answers. Your team can recognize winners through SMS and send them prizes. 
  • Spot the item. Your team can ask students to send in pictures of something very specific, like a red stapler. The first student to send in a picture of the requested item will receive a prize, and share their picture with everyone. 
  • Talent shows. Your team can ask students to send in short videos of their unique talents, in different categories like humor and singing. You can share videos of the winners across the student body. 

These types of college SMS events can help students both feel like they’re part of the community—and also have fun outside of the classroom.

Let Students Text Their Questions

Off-campus students may feel less inclined to stop into administrative, extracurricular, or departmental buildings to ask quick questions. In some cases, this can lead them to participate in fewer activities. 

Let students text your departments with all of their basic questions. Empowering off-campus students to ask their questions easily will encourage them to reach out and connect with your staff members.

Let them know that they can use college SMS to:

  • Ask basic questions of any department
  • Connect with an advisor or dean personally
  • Schedule or reschedule meetings

These kinds of SMS services empower your students to stay connected, even if they live far away from your offices. 


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