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Do Text Message Nudges Improve Academic Performance?


Although some people believe that the differences in social status don't play a significant role in higher education anymore, the truth remains that income and geography still influence academic performance. As a matter of fact, students from rural areas and lower-income families often underperform compared to the more privileged colleagues.

This inspired behavioral scientists to test the nudge theory in the form of text messages. The nudge theorists believe that subtle encouragements are more likely to encourage people to change their behavior than sheer force or other means of repression.

In this post, we will present you real-life examples of text message nudges and explain how they influence students’ academic performance.

Examples of Text Message Nudges

Text message nudges are a relatively new concept, but several studies already revealed its potential. We will show you three examples here:

  • West Virginia

A research team launched an investigation in West Virginia to learn how the text messaging campaign could help lower-income college students to obtain clear information, encouragement, and access to one-on-one advising. The experiment showed a significant relationship between campaign participation and fall semester GPA, with texted students earning 0.31 GPA points higher than their non-texted peers. At the same time, low-income students who participated in the texting campaign completed an additional 1.4 credits during their spring semester.

  • STEM

The majority of STEM students in higher education don’t complete their studies, so it’s important to give them an extra boost. Jobs for the Future (JFF) and Persistence Plus conducted a text message nudges study with approximately two thousand STEM students at four community colleges. It turned out that research participants stayed in school at a rate 10% higher than their non-participating colleagues. Following the trial period, the four faculties decided to fully embrace the nudges and expand the service to 10 thousand students.

  • The Behavioral Insights Team

The Behavioral Insights Team ran a test in England, forming a group of 1.1 thousand students. According to the official report, simple text messages caused a 7% increase in attendance relative to the control group, while drop-out (those who never come back after the mid-term break) decreased by 36%. The results were so satisfying that the team decided to build an exclusive “behaviorally-informed texting platform.”

Why Text Message Nudges Work?

Now that you’ve learned about the real-life examples of text message nudges, it is time to see what makes this tactic so successful. We made a list of the five most important reasons:

  • Simplicity: First of all, the system works because it's straightforward. George Jones, a psychologist at UK Best Essays, says all messages in this program are designed to be clear and concise: “Each nudge contains brief and direct instructions so that no one can misinterpret anything. That’s what makes the whole process so effective.”
  • Planning: Students who participate in the program can count on accurate information, which helps them to schedule duties and make long-term plans. With this service, they cannot forget due dates, exams, or any other task.
  • Administrative work: Freshmen can easily get lost in the crowd of the college campus, especially if they come from smaller towns and lower-income families. For this reason, it is crucial to give them some support to help them go through the hard times. For instance, it’s a way to remind students about the financial aid renewal, course registration, and similar administrative procedures.
  • Orientation: Administration is not the only thing that makes young people confused. Sometimes they struggle to find the right office or classroom, so text message nudges help them with orientation. This way, students can learn where to go and how to find help without wasting time wandering around the campus.
  • Encouragement: This is the last but certainly not the least important reason why nudges work. First-year students often feel discouraged and disoriented so that they can use some extra support from the outside. Optimistic and upbeat messages help them to find the right balance and inspire them to take action such as attending the lecture on the first day or joining a local sports team.


Text message nudges proved to be an effective way to boost academic performance, particularly for individuals coming from rural or lower-income families. Students who occasionally receive simple but straightforward messages are more likely to engage and invest additional effort, which improves their results both short and long-term. Although it will take a lot more research to prove the value of text message nudges more definitively, this strategy could soon become a standard in higher education institutions.




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