Seminole State College makes the grade with student text messaging

Students talking on campus

Today’s students have different communication needs than previous generations. They check their phones constantly, but aren’t consistent with email or phone calls. Higher education institutions must adapt their outreach tactics if they want to attract new generations to their classrooms.

When Gen Z stepped into the spotlight, Seminole State College of Florida’’s admissions and recruiting teams realized that email and phone calls weren’t getting the same results they used to. They needed a faster, more convenient communication channel that appealed to their entire student body.

Team leaders already knew an effective way to reach prospective and current students: higher education SMS. With help from SMS, engagement and response times were beginning to improve, but they hoped to improve them further. Then their SMS platform, Zipwhip, announced it would be shutting down and they faced a new challenge: how could they make these improvements and transition their SMS services smoothly?

Seminole State College decided to migrate from Zipwhip to Heymarket. In this case study, we’ll learn about the tools they used to stay connected with current contacts, engage more prospective students, and improve their team’s response times.

The institution: educating and empowering Florida communities

Seminole State College, a public institution, has four campuses in Florida. This fast-growing school was a semifinalist for the 2023 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence which honors colleges that show outstanding performance in six critical areas: teaching and learning, certificate and degree completion, transfer and bachelor’s attainment, workforce success, equitable access, and equitable outcomes for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds

Among its other strategic goals, Seminole State College aims to lift up traditional students as well as regional working adults, diverse populations, and underserved individuals. Their recruiting and admissions teams adopted Heymarket in 2022 to better attract and connect with this expansive pool of prospective and current students.

Transferring from Zipwhip to Heymarket

Before the Seminole State College team could tackle engagement and response times, they had to migrate from Zipwhip to Heymarket.

Heymarket allowed the team to transfer all of their contacts so they didn’t lose a single connection. They also imported past conversations into Heymarket so they had contact history at their fingertips, in some cases picking up conversations right where they left off. When they had questions, Heymarket’s helpful articles or support team members guided them through.

“[Heymarket’s] backend is just really easy to use.”
— Mark Richardson, Manager, Public Relations and Communications

With their data secure in Heymarket’s platform, the Seminole State College team was ready to address their primary challenges.

Challenge #1: High volume of calls and long wait times

Seminole State College’s admissions team prioritizes providing thorough, accurate, and quick answers to incoming questions. But they faced a high volume of calls, many from people needing assistance from program specialists and international students with communication barriers. Team members had to spend time transferring calls and trying to provide useful answers for prospective students who weren’t fluent in English.

With the demand for their admissions phone line, wait times frequently exceeded 15 minutes. The admissions team urgently needed to give prospective students a faster alternative to the call center—extra credit if it helped them communicate more efficiently with international students.

Solution #1: A faster alternative

With text messaging, Seminole State College’s admissions team now offers a faster alternative to the call center. Their general text line has only a 2.5 minute wait time.

Team members easily see and respond to incoming messages in their shared inbox, a tool that also makes it easy to juggle multiple conversations at once. They assign complex questions to one of three specialists in different degree programs, streamlining their workflows. These strategies have improved their response time by 80%.

“Students are able to get specialized answers much faster.”
— Latisha McCray, Director of Admissions

Prospective student outreach is faster, too. Instead of calling students one by one, the admissions team sends a one-to-many text to a list in a single click. Heymarket automatically personalizes outgoing texts, so each student receives a tailored message with relevant information and links. This tool has helped the team expedite matriculation and enrollment times.

Seminole State gets a lot of inquiries from international students. To better accommodate them, the admissions team uses Google Translate to translate their responses before sending them back to the prospective students over text. They can now serve this entire group of students seamlessly in a way they could not over the phone.

Challenge #2: Low prospective student response rates

Email has been a standard communication channel for decades. But prospective students in younger generations weren’t reading or responding to many of Seminole State College’s recruiting emails.

Prospective students would frequently cease contact after receiving long, informative emails—even if the recruiter was answering their question. Team members realized that they might be overwhelmed by lengthy emails. They wanted to read shorter, more manageable pieces of information.

The recruiting team didn’t just want younger generations to respond more. The school community includes many adult learners, too. Getting better response rates from all prospective students—and parents—would boost overall engagement and attendance at recruiting events. They needed a channel that would appeal to all generations.

Solution #2: An engaging, convenient channel

Now that Seminole State College’s recruiting team texts, they’re having more conversations than ever before. Both prospective students and parents are eager to communicate through text messages.

Recruiters hand off their business cards at events, and prospective students text their questions. The entire team receives messages in their dedicated inboxes, so they only see messages from their students and can respond promptly.

“It’s a great way for students to connect with me one-on-one very quickly…they seem to feel relieved that we offer it.”
— Eve Hudson, Student Recruiter

When prospective students ask about applications or other processes, the team provides instructions step by step. These bite-size pieces help them stay engaged until they’ve submitted their applications or solved their problem.

As an added bonus, the recruiting team uses Heymarket’s list broadcasts to send personalized event reminders, increasing turnout. These campus visits can mean the difference between a prospective student choosing Seminole State College over another college.

Future plans: texting’s next chapter at Seminole State College

Seminole State College’s teams are actively exploring other ways to use Heymarket. Their Student Life department is interested in using SMS campaigns and automated texting to promote their events, boosting student turnout and creating an even stronger sense of community.

“Now we’re communicating with the students the way they do.”
— Mark Richardson, Manager, Public Relations and Communications

As Seminole State College’s teams continue to use Heymarket’s business texting platform, they hope to find even more ways to streamline and enhance student communications. They’re excited about expanding their community—and further improving the Seminole State College experience.

Sophia Huneycutt is Heymarket's lead writer, producing everything from articles to eBooks. She works closely with Heymarket's product and customer service teams to help convey the latest business texting best practices. A B2B technology writer since the mid-2010s, Sophia has also worked with brands like Microsoft and Indiegogo. Her dying potted plants wish she'd stick to writing in her spare time, too.
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