Case Study

Get Schooled, a national non-profit

How do you help low-income students find the resources they need to get the best possible education?

That’s the challenge facing Get Schooled, a national nonprofit focused on improving educational outcomes for low-income students by using a unique blend of digital resources, advice, and gaming. Get Schooled helps high school underclassmen decide which classes to take. They help students prep for the SATs. They help college applicants apply to schools and then pick the right school for them. Perhaps most importantly, Get Schooled helps students navigate the complicated process of financial aid.

In the process, they’ve worked with celebrities like Kendrick Lamar and DJ Khaled to combine the sizzle with the substance to inspire and engage more students and have a real impact on their lives and their futures.

One of the organization’s key insights was turning the college preparation and application process into a game. By adding achievements, badges, and rewards, Get Schooled can keep students interested while they further their educational progress.

The program recently was acknowledged as one of the “World’s Most Innovative Companies” by Fast Company, with a special top 10 distinction in gaming.

Of course, when you’re an innovative organization communicating with students, you have to use text messages. So Get Schooled launched a text messaging campaign to help engage students around the college process and answer any questions.

I spoke with David Nguyen, the organization’s Director of Digital Engagement & Communications, about how text messaging helps them reach students and achieve their organizational goals.

An SMS Campaign to Keep Students Inspired & Informed

“We use Upland Mobile Messaging texts to provide students a direct personalized Get Schooled experience. Based on the student’s graduation year we deliver text messages that drive conversation and motivate them through their journey at school. Anytime a student needs help on anything, Get Schooled is there!” said Nguyen.

The organization has four principle text messaging programs.

Academic Text Journey sends personalized text prompts and checklist reminders based on students’ school year and the Academic calendar.
The College Text Hotline lets students text in any questions as they prepare for their applications, and receive back personalized answers from Get Schooled’s counselors.
The Get School Breakfast Club sends students relatable motivational meme messages in the mornings to encourage students to get up and get to school.
The SAT Daily Texts sends daily SAT test prep questions where students can review and answer on their phone.

These four programs let Get Schooled help students no matter what they need. If students are looking for inspiration, for hard facts, or for specific answers to their questions, Get Schooled has a solution.

Using Text Messages to Generate Content
Get Schooled uses the information they gather from these text message conversations to learn more about their audience and to generate content for their website and social media.

When the organization notices particular questions recurring, they’ll explore the underlying issues further. No organization can predict what young people are going to be worried about. By looking to their text correspondence, Get Schooled can respond in real time to young people’s concerns.

Moreover, Get Schooled will take the top conversations and turn them into helpful content for the website. That way, the questions that one student asks can be shared with millions of other students who may have similar concerns. And from a purely organizational point of view, Get Schooled can use one platform to generate content on another.

An Online Hub That Integrates with Text Messages
The organization encourages young people to sign up by promoting the mobile program on their site.

The website has a wealth of substantive content, ranging from test prep questions to how to tie your tie – all of which is gamified. Using a system of badges and incentives, the site keeps students learning. A rewards store pushes those incentives further; students can earn anything from stickers to school supplies to clothes and gift cards.

One of their badges, the Attendance Badge, encourages students to sign up for the Breakfast Club and receive an inspiring text message every morning, which gets them further points.

“We layer those inspiring messages in with gifs,” said Nguyen. “In gif culture it’s important to be funny. But we spin it in a way that’s substantive, to get the message across with a trending image that resonates with them.”

The promotional mechanic works both ways. Some people who sign up for the text messaging program first end up coming to the site that way.

User Profiles for Precisely Targeted Messages
Get Schooled uses user profiles to target their messages. “We want to make sure we provide a hyper-personalized, segmented experience. Based on the student’s text response, we provide tailored site links or use the content from the particular site article to respond,” said Nguyen.

Get Schooled will send separate messages to students depending on their grade: freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and alums all receive different content. Students looking into scholarships or FAFSA deadlines can receive targeted content to help their search.

Agent Chat for Personalized Messages

Get Schooled uses the Upland Mobile Messaging agent chat functionality to provide personalized answers to students’ questions. Students struggling through the convoluted financial aid process can text their questions into the college text hotline. Their team of counselors is on-hand to answer.

Integrating Personalized Messaging with Events
Some people think texting during a presentation can be disruptive. Get Schooled actually encourages it. Recently, at an event in Detroit for College Day, Get Schooled encouraged attendees to text in their college questions during the speaker’s presentation. They would then receive answers in real-time.

“The text line is so critical with helping to provide an immediate experience and scaling the reach,” said Nguyen. “We pushed the text line to let those kids know that we’re there, we’ve got their back. We can personalize our support. Kids were asking ‘what college should I go to,’ ‘what’s the best community college,’ ‘what’s the best college in Michigan.’ We can provide the answers.”

At the same time, the organization launched the website GetSchooled.com/Detroit, which is focused on Detroit students. That way, when the students left the event, they and their peers could find college resources, targeted around their concerns.

Hundreds of students took part in the College Day text event. The organization has done similar integrations for Philadelphia and California.

Motivating Tens of Thousands of Students
Get Schooled has registered over 75,000 subscribers and provided them with the motivation and information they need. Their work has led to tens of thousands of young people who are better prepared for the academic experiences they face, and tens of thousands of low-income students finding opportunities they might not otherwise have had.

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