Students need more than a mask.
They're embarking on a new journey that will shape their lives, but that territory is uncharted because of an ongoing pandemic. Welcome to life as a college student. Everywhere you look, students have a new roadblock to deal with on their way to graduation, and the schools that guide them will make lasting impressions.
There are two purposes of COVID communication - inform and support. Some texts need to be sent simply to let students know of guidelines and restrictions that exist because of COVID-19. Then, there are the support texts, which are just as important.
Make your texts relevant
We subscribe to a texting philosophy of "Before you hit 'send' ask yourself if the person you're texting will find your text helpful." Don't overload students with information they probably know, but make them aware of available resources.
By now, everyone knows the importance of social distancing so you don't have to blast reminders, but students might not be aware of which parts of campus masks are mandated. Students and prospective students might not be comfortable reaching out with questions and concerns. Compile a list of important facts for your website and let them know where to find the information.
Lend a helping hand
School is stressful enough without the constant doom scrolling of social media channels broadcasting the next big thing to worry about. Sometimes students need to know someone is there if they need help. Even if someone doesn't specifically need support, knowing it's there has a calming influence.
It's also a good idea to have some COVID-related text templates handy in case your department needs them in a pinch. Here are a few handy examples:
[TEXT EXAMPLE: MENTAL HEALTH CHECK-IN]
Hi <FIRST NAME>, it's <STAFF NAME> from the Counseling Center. I wanted to check-in and see how you were feeling about being on campus, and let you know that there are tons of free resources available if you're overwhelmed about classes or COVID-19. You can see what's available to you here: <LINK>.
[TEXT EXAMPLE: POSTPONEMENTS]
Hi <FIRST NAME>, it's <STAFF NAME> from <COLLEGE NAME>. Unfortunately, we have to postpone <EVENT/CLASS> today. We will reach out to you soon with rescheduling information. If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to reply to this message.
[TEXT EXAMPLE: VACCINATION REQUIREMENT]
Hi <FIRST NAME>, it's <STAFF NAME> from the Student Health Department! <COLLEGE NAME> is requiring all students to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by <DATE>. Do you need help booking an appointment? If you're already vaccinated, submit a copy of your vaccine card here for our records: <LINK>
Separate engagement from emergency
Emergency notification protocols are vital to keeping students safe. Before you use a 6-digit shortcode text, make sure the message you are sending is urgent and fitting for the medium. If your school is texting out mask reminders or mental health checks with your emergency texting platform, students will get confused and might begin ignoring those shortcode texts.
We're all unsure of what the next day will bring
State regulations and CDC recommendations change often. It's not easy to keep your school's policies up to date - and it's even more difficult to communicate changes to faculty, staff and students. The better your plan, the safer students will feel arriving or returning to your campus.