5 types of emails students ignore—and how to get your emails opened

Daily Briefing

5 types of emails students ignore—and how to get your emails opened

Your students probably aren’t reading your emails.

Nearly 40% of students say they don’t always open emails from academic advisors, more than half don’t read emails from their academic department, and 72% treat emails from student organizations like spam.

But when students ignore your emails, they may fail to register for courses, declare their major on time, or file their FAFSA.

To get your emails opened, review your communication strategy to make your messages more effective. You can start by identifying—and revising—the five common types of emails students ignore.

1. The email with a boring subject line

Emails tend to be more successful when the subject line is catchy, direct, urgent, and conversational. Starting your subject line with “How to…” can improve open rates by 7.5 percentage points, according to one study. Keeping the entire subject line to fewer than 30 characters and including a question mark can also boost open rates.

2. The jargon-packed email

Confusing terms won’t just make your students’ eyes glaze over. Jargon can alienate and intimidate new students—especially if they’re first-generation. In a 2013 survey, 70% of student respondents said they were confused by the terminology on college websites.

Students are more likely to understand and act on emails that are tailored to their communication style. No, this doesn’t mean you need to brush up on your text message acronyms. Rather, choose common, everyday words and eliminate jargon. Effective email language is clear and direct, says Lindsay Miars, an EAB expert on advising and student success. When you write an email, use the word “you” and center the content around students and their ambitions, rather than general policies, she adds.

3. The 10th email that morning

If you send your students 10 emails before lunchtime, you risk burying important messages. Cut back on email noise to ensure students pay more attention to each message. “There are times when a message is truly critical for a student to see, and university-level coordination can help elevate those messages through signal value,” says Miars.

North Dakota State University Registrar Rhonda Kitch recommended several steps for streamlining campus communications in her 2015 dissertation, including:

– Determine the messages that your institution deems critical;- Designate an administrator with a position of authority to serve as the “elevated sender;” and- Help students learn to recognize which messages are critical.

4. The non-urgent email

People are most likely to read messages that are immediately useful. If a student can’t act on your message right away, now might not be the best time to send it. If they should act on your message right away, include action verbs that convey a sense of urgency.

5. The “spammy” email

Internet service providers focus on how readers interact with your email to determine whether it is spam. If recipients engage with your message, it will most likely deliver to their inboxes.

One potential spam flag is high dollar amounts in subject lines. If students perceive “$30,000” as a legitimate scholarship opportunity, that financial award message will deliver to students’ inboxes, writes Henderson. If “$30,000” is not a plausible number for your target audience, students might think it’s a phishing email that will ultimately flush out in a spam filter.

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