Text-based nudges to high school seniors boost financial aid filing, college enrollment


High school seniors who receive texted reminders—or "nudges"—from their school counselors are 17 percent more likely to complete the college financial aid application process and 8 percent more likely to enroll in college directly after graduating than their peers who are not nudged, according to a new study published today in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.

In contrast with other recent studies that have found no positive results from nudging, the text-based outreach in this case was framed for students as coming from their school counselor. If students replied to the text, they were able to communicate directly with their school counselor, who could provide guidance and support. In other recent studies, text nudges to students came from organizations such as the Common Application and the College Board, with whom students had no personal connection or affiliation.

The authors—Lindsay C. Page (University of Pittsburgh), Benjamin L. Castleman (University of Virginia), and Katharine Meyer (Brown University)—designed and implemented an intervention in Texas in spring 2015 that involved eight school districts in the Austin and Houston areas. These districts together served over 17,000 high school seniors (class of 2015) across 66 high schools.