UVa. Project to Offer College Application Support Through Text Messages

Sept. 26, 2013

A new project from the University of Virginia aims to help high school students get into college by using text messaging.

Ben Castleman, acting assistant professor of education at the UVa’s Center for Education Policy, has partnered with Workforce Competitiveness and the West Virginia Higher Education Planning Commission to develop the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, dubbed “West Virginia GEAR UP.”

High school students that participate in GEAR UP will receive personalized text messages providing them with information on preparing for college. These messages will also allow them to text back questions or request one-on-one assistance.

In prior research, Castleman and colleagues have documented that many high school graduates who intend to attend college fail to enroll anywhere in the fall semester following high school due to challenges they encounter during the summer.

“Our goal is to increase students’ awareness of important college and financial aid tasks,” Castleman said. “We also hope to reduce ‘summer melt’ by helping students navigate obstacles to enrollment that they may encounter during the summer following high school graduation.”

Most students, even in rural areas, have cell phones. Using the text message medium to deliver straightforward and personalized college-planning information offers a low-cost, low-maintenance method for schools to communicate with students, Castleman said.

GEAR UP recently received a three-year, $225,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation.

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