Study of College Transition Messaging in GEAR UP

Prepared For

U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences

The U.S. Department of Education is testing the effectiveness of customized text messages to improve college-related outcomes in the federal college access program Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP).

GEAR UP is one of the U.S. Department of Education's college access programs, which funds states or local partnerships of districts and postsecondary institutions to help increase access to college for students in high-need schools beginning in 7th grade. The text messages are being tested as an approach to advise GEAR UP students as they transition to and study in their first year of college. The text messages are grounded in behavioral science research showing that customized reminder messages and access to real-time support might help students overcome some barriers they encounter.

On this study, we are investigating whether the text-based advising strategy improves GEAR UP students’ rates of college enrollment and persistence. Sixteen GEAR UP grantees are participating in this randomized controlled trial, which has involved 4,803 students from across 81 high schools. College-intending seniors were randomly assigned to receive customized text messages and text-based advising beginning in the summer after senior year in high school and continuing into the spring of their expected first year of college. We are partnered with Abt Associates on the study.

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