As I sat in rush hour traffic on my way to an appointment with a student, it occurred to me that I had not called to confirm he would be there. Sure enough, the student was a no-show to our advising meeting. When I called a few minutes after our appointment time, he explained that he had forgotten to put it in his calendar. I couldn’t help but feel frustrated at the time I had wasted.
Advising appointments give advisors the opportunity to go more in-depth with students about their current academic concerns and future aspirations. This tends to be the only time we can shift from prescriptive advising to holistic advising, discussing the non-curricular factors that affect students’ academic performance.
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But when students don’t show-up for their appointments, advisors miss the opportunity to support their students and also end up with blocks of time that can feel unproductive.
Punitive measures can have unintended consequences
To encourage students to show up for their appointments, I’ve seen many colleges enforce punitive measures, but doesn’t that miss the point? We want our students to trust us and bring their “whole selves” into their advising appointments. They may have missed our meeting due to a sick child at home or an unsympathetic boss who wouldn’t let them leave work, but if students are told that a missing an appointment means they can’t reschedule for a period of time, won’t that discourage them from telling their advisors about the non-curricular factors that are likely affecting their academics?
What advisors really want is to make sure that students attend their scheduled appointments and, when they can’t, that the advisor knows with enough time to fill the gap in their calendar with another student.
Why 93% of ACC students keep scheduled advising appointments
Arapahoe Community College (ACC) seems to have found a solution. They use nudges to remind students about their upcoming appointments. In a recent campaign, they found that students who didn’t receive that simple text reminder were three times more likely to miss their advising appointments.
In fact, these improvements have been so successful that ACC has added more appointment times and now sees fewer students via walk-ins, which has allowed the college’s students to get more support and ask more questions than they have in the past. Earlier this year, ACC told us that 93% of the college’s students now keep their scheduled advising appointments.
Text nudges help with more than just advising appointments
ACC saw so much success from appointment nudges it extended the practice to other parts of the student experience. Nudging students to consider summer classes boosted summer enrollment by 13% from the year before. Sending a nudge to students who hadn’t created degree plans led to 86% of students logging in to build them.
ACC leaders recognized that if they sent all messages to students via text, they would likely see a decrease in the effect of the nudges, so their teams coordinated to limit the number of messages that were sent to students. A message to remind financial aid recipients to complete the FAFSA or a reminder about upcoming registration periods are more effective when they are one of just a few across the year.
Finding ways to engage our students by encouraging the behavior that will give them the most from their higher education experience is just one way to make sure we are supporting the needs of today’s students.