Up Next: College

Up Next - College - Center for Equity in Learning - ACT.ORGOur friends at Better Make Room have created a free mobile messaging tool that opens the realm of college access to all students across the country. The tool, Up Next, sends out helpful reminders and tips to help students stay on track for the transition from high school to college. Simply by texting the word “college” to 44044, students will be able to get reminder text messages for registering for the ACT/SAT and submitting a yearly Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, as well as support for researching and applying for college. The Better Make Room Campaign is a part of the Reach Higher Initiative that was launched by First Lady Michelle Obama, and aims to encourage students across the country to pursue education after high school.

Ben Castleman, an outstanding researcher who worked behind the scenes on Up Next, stated, “…the aim of Up Next is to provide students across the country with the information, encouragement, and assistance they need to pursue high quality, affordable college options.” The evidence-based research and design that fuels this tool uses, “text messaging to improve education outcomes of students…” This concept of outreach aims to meet students where they are: on their cell phones. This approach is based on a study that was done by Castleman, “Summer Nudging: Can Personalized Text Messages and Peer Mentor Outreach Increase College Going Among Low-Income High School Students?” where he used text messages to mitigate “summer melt” – the months after high school graduation when 40 percent of low-income students who have been accepted into college decide not to go. The results illustrated, “both the feasibility and impact of a text message campaign to set the stage for policy makers and practitioners to use similar strategies to support students in making better educational decisions and smoother transitions throughout their educational trajectories.”

This tool offers three different kinds of support to students. By texting “college” to 44044:

• Seniors in high school will receive reminder emails for college prep action items such as informing them about college searches, when to sign up for college admissions test (ACT/SAT), college applications, and financial aid.

• Students currently enrolled in college will receive information about renting or buying books, ways to make use of campus resources, and steps to renew financial aid (as well as reminders too!).

• Recent graduates will receive tips for potential loan repayment.

The Center for Equity in Learning (CEL) is a sponsor of Civic Nation’s initiatives, which include Better Make Room, Reach Higher, College Signing Day, and Beating the Odds. The CEL is guided by the belief that actionable evidence should guide changes in policy and practice. Partnerships like these are just one way we are currently working to close equity and opportunity gaps across the country. The launch of the Up Next tool is a pivotal moment in open access to information for all potential college goers. The personalized support regarding all things students need in order to transition into college (and beyond) is something that will be very beneficial, and reflects ACT’s mission to help people achieve education and workplace success.