Monday, November 2, 2015

How Texting Can Make the Difference in Attending College or Not

Daniel is a student who received uAspire Bay Area’s college affordability advising throughout his senior year at Impact Academy in Hayward. After he worked with his uAspire College Affordability Advisor to make a well informed decision about how to finance college, he still needed assistance on a surprisingly challenging next step: successfully enrolling in college. 

Daniel is not alone. Every year, roughly 20% of students from low-income homes -- and up to 40% in some large urban districts -- fall through the cracks over the summer after high school graduation. In this documented phenomenon, called "summer melt," high school graduates who have been admitted to and chosen a college don’t enroll in the fall. 

When researchers first approached uAspire about tackling the challenge of summer melt, we knew there had to be a way to ensure that college acceptance leads to college matriculation and, ultimately, college success. Today our advising of students starts in the fall of 12th grade year and lasts right through college matriculation. Last school year, our College Affordability Advisors supported 950 students in San Francisco and the East Bay with one-on-one guidance through the process of pursuing, accepting and enrolling in an affordable college; this year, our team is empowering 1,165 local 12th graders in 11 high schools and one after-school program. Over the summer, we rolled out the initial component of our post-secondary supports with 930 of our first local cohort. Designed in collaboration with researchers Ben Castleman and Lindsay Page and edtech partner Signal Vine, our innovative text-message-based outreach program has proven in uAspire’s other sites to counteract summer melt, increasing college enrollment by a statistically significant 7 percentage points!

Why use text-messaging? Just as we work with students in the high schools and after-school programs that they already attend, after high school we continue to meet them where they are -- on their cell phones! Our texting technology allows us to support students wherever they go to college and to use their preferred mode of communication to address complicated and nuanced information.

What’s in the texts? We use Signal Vine’s automated platform to send each student personalized reminders of critical steps to complete over the summer for their particular college. Students then rely on their uAspire Advisor’s guidance to walk through the steps of signing off on loans, paying the first term bill, and more—and text us many additional questions along the way! To see the power of uAspire’s virtual advising first-hand, check out the exchange between Daniel and our Advisor Michael this summer. By this time, Michael had responded to many questions from Daniel about signing his federal student loans and using financial aid to cover his full costs. The excerpt demonstrates the support and encouragement that Michael also provided when Daniel expressed concerns about the transition from high school to college.

With this innovative tool incorporated into our program model, we are able to ensure that students are both making financially savvy decisions about their post-secondary plans and getting a successful start to college. Thanks to uAspire’s guidance, Daniel was able to afford college AND successfully kick off his first year at UC Davis!

We welcome your help in ensuring that thousands of local students succeed in accessing and completing an affordable college education. To learn more about our work, please feel free to reach out to me at and/or sign up for our newsletter (

And thank you so much for being a friend and follower of the GreenLight Fund. The impact uAspire is able to make with Bay Area youth is a direct reflection of the power of the GreenLight approach!

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