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Kathy Pawelek and Aleyda Cantu, Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Pawelek and Cantu.jpgBecause we live in an era of technological dependency, texting has become an integral part of our daily communications with friends, family, and co-workers.  Why has texting not become a necessary form of communication with students? Texting allows advisors instant communication with students. In the average student’s email account, an advisor’s email can be sandwiched between social media updates, ads, student organization information, and faculty emails. Advisors at Texas A&M University-Kingsville (TAMUK) utilize texting to push through the inbox clutter, getting pertinent information into each student’s hands.

Incorporating texting into our communicating bag of tricks does not require personal cell phone usage or budgeting for a pre-paid cell phone; this is because the text originates as an email on the sender’s end. A unique email address is created using the student’s phone number and cell phone provider. Each cell provider has a unique email domain that is available to research through the provider’s website. The phone number is paired with the provider email domain to create an email address that works like any regular email address (i.e. [email protected]) only the receiver receives a text by phone, not an email. For example, Student’s phone number, 123.123.4567, is attached to AT&T’s specified domain creating a unique email address, [email protected]. Instantly, Student receives a text and begins corresponding with her advisor, creating quicker responses and resolutions to issues.

The texting email address can be used in Outlook or any web-based email by simply composing a new email and inserting the email address in the To/Recipient box. The message is sent like a regular email, in which case, the body of the email will be seen as a text on the student’s phone. The sent email will appear in the advisor’s sent mail folder. The student responds to the text, as with any other text sent from another cell phone, sending an email back to the advisor. Conversations among advisors and students can take place in real time, with the additional convenience of preserving each conversation on email for documentation and referencing.

Authorization should be requested from every student before texts are sent. Creating a text authorization form for each student to fill out during orientation or advising is a good way to request and document authorization. Through trial and error, our form has evolved to include specific language outlining the intended purpose of the texting, which is used for conveying advising-related information by advisors only, not the university as a whole. We have also found it beneficial to include a statement for students to acknowledge that standard text messaging rates may apply for the text message received.

A spreadsheet or contact list can become a quick reference to reduce the time it takes to email the text.  Advisors with large cohorts or rotating students may find a spreadsheet with relevant student information more efficient, including a column for texting email.  Advisors with smaller advising loads may benefit from creating email address book contacts for each student. This method of texting allows for the advisor to send a mass text, one email to multiple students at one time.  Using the spreadsheet or address book contacts makes mass texting easy and efficient, because we can send an email to 10 or 200 students in a matter of seconds.  The added benefit is that each individual email address receives its own text message, allowing for confidentiality and privacy within the mass text.

Texting has become a preferred choice of communication among students.  For advisors, it is a professional, cost effective, and efficient means of communication that delivers immediate answers.  It does require a little maintenance.  For example, advisors must ensure that there are no changes to the student’s cell phone number and/or cell provider; otherwise texts may be sent to a random stranger. However, the majority of the time students will contact an advisor to update any changes with cell phone number or provider.

While there are a few drawbacks to this texting method, there are simple, quick solutions that can easily be adapted into a regular practice when emailing.  The email to text method does not support attachments, pictures, or lengthy messages.  It is important to keep the text short.  This can be achieved by sending a text message that has a quick reference to the topic and state that details have been emailed.  The student still receives instant information and notification except in a condensed version.

One of the major disadvantages lies in the verification of identity of the student.  Oftentimes the reply from the student will not have a name, student ID number, or history of previous email/text within the email. Unless a cell number is memorized for each student, or the email address listed as a contact, the advisor may not recognize the student responding. In these situations, the spreadsheet comes in handy, because the advisor can do a quick search for the email address.  The quickest solution for immediate identification would be to carbon copy the student’s email address, especially an institution-designated address.  Depending on the cell phone provider, the email response from the student will include the carbon copy.  After a couple of friendly reminders, the student will make it a habit of verifying their identity, knowing it will help them get a rapid solution or response. In the grand scheme of things, it is a good practice for students to maintain professionalism in all correspondence, even texting, as it is swiftly becoming an official form of communication.

Texting has been utilized for approximately two years at TAMUK.  There are several texting options available through web or social media sites.  Many of the options do not include the capability for response texting from the student or mass texting. The selling points for this method lie in the capability for mass text as an individual confidential message, efficiency of using current email, and the ability for the student to correspond in real time with the advisor.  Advisors will be forfeiting the ability to send pictures, attachments, and lengthy messages, and may receive inconsistent previous email history, but will benefit greatly from the user-friendly, professional, and simple method of using email-to-text communication. Overall, the fact that an advisor is able to proactively reach out to multiple or individual students in real time to break the barriers of unanswered emails and voicemails, including those students who do not have immediate access to internet or cell phone data usage, outweighs the cons of texting.

Texting has proven to be a successful correspondence tool in building trust, reliability and confidence in the advisor-student relationship. The advantages plus the simple, adaptable solutions to its short list of cons makes it a favorite form of communication among advisors and students. Texting is one of many proactive advising resources TAMUK Center for Student Success advisors offer that continue to aid in creating a student success-oriented environment with booming graduation and retention rates.   

Kathy Pawelek
Academic Advisor I
Center for Student Success/College of Arts & Sciences
Texas A&M University-Kingsville
[email protected]

Aleyda Cantu
Academic Advisor III
Center for Student Success/College of Arts & Sciences
Texas A&M University-Kingsville
[email protected]

Cite this article using APA style as: Pawelek, K. & Cantu, A. (2014, September). Advising plus texting equals success. Academic Advising Today, 37(3). Retrieved from [insert url here]


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