Students seek trusted support and advice, and expanding services through technology can help increase advisors’ capacity to deliver that support and build relationships with students. Technology-enabled postsecondary advising tools can help increase counselor communication, remind students of important tasks, and identify students who would benefit from additional support. These tools include text messaging, chatbots, phone calls, emails, and videoconferencing and can be leveraged to support college and career exploration, college applications, FAFSA completion, college fit, and postsecondary enrollment.

How does the strategy create more equitable access and opportunities?

Even before the pandemic, low-income students, students of color, and first-generation students were often the most disconnected from school, and the switch to distance learning during the pandemic only worsened this divide. Low-income students and first-generation students also experience higher rates of summer melt, the phenomenon where college-intending high school graduates fail to matriculate.

Technology-enabled advising has been shown to be a cost-effective solution to increase postsecondary enrollment, particularly among students who have less academic-year access to quality college counseling and information (Castleman & Page, 2014).

Technology can also help counselors and educators access real-time information about their students. For example, Student Success Agency’s (SSA) platform provides real-time updates on students’ progress towards their education goals. The platform also connects counselors, teachers, and near-peer mentors who can coordinate individualized supports such as tutoring, skills-based opportunities based on career aspirations, mental health services, and postsecondary preparedness. Schools that implemented SSA pre-pandemic saw that student engagement on the SSA platform in their schools remained unchanged since shutdowns in March, 2020 – regardless of learning format – allowing them to reduce gaps in enrollment.

What outcomes or benefits are associated with the strategy?

What are the budget implications for implementing the strategy?

The main cost to implement this strategy is investing in the technology; however, the cost per student is often low. The text messaging campaign Castleman & Page (2014) used cost $7 per student, inclusive of the expense of hiring school counselors to provide additional support to students. The AdmitHub system used by Georgia State University costs between $7 and $15 per student in addition to the cost of staff involvement.

Student Success Agency’s model offers more comprehensive extended assistance beyond summer transition text messaging that supports both staff and students by activating a network of near-peer mentors they call “agents.”

The cost for extended support services is $100 to $120 per student for a full calendar year, including summer months. There is a one-time implementation investment to set up technology, train staff, and engage students, which can be waived depending on the scope of the agreement. These individuals act as agents for students throughout the year, organizing and coordinating support across systems and providing an extra hand to in-person staff.

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What are the estimated costs for implementing this strategy?

Extended support services: $100-$120 per student per full calendar year
Implementation (set up technology, train staff, and engage students): $5,000-$25,000 one-time cost per school

How will the strategy limit significant recurring costs while ensuring long-term sustainability?

The initial setup and implementation will require an up-front investment. Once the virtual platform is operational, there are limited recurring costs per student to cover staff time to connect with students over the platform.

What is the anticipated timeline for launching the strategy?

While this strategy can be launched at any time, the beginning of a semester marks the best time to begin. Planning between lead counselors and administrators and the technology platform for both staff and student implementation typically begins at least a month before actual implementation.

What internal and/or external capacity (e.g. personnel, infrastructure, training, etc.) is needed to launch the strategy? To monitor and sustain it?


  • District lead accountable for securing the technology and creating a plan for how it will be used
  • Counselors, educators, or mentors to provide advising services or answer questions that cannot be answered by a chatbot
  • Training for school staff on how to use the tool
  • Communication plan to explain the tool to students and families and get the students signed up for the service

Monitor and Sustain

  • Ongoing communication and progress monitoring by counselors, educators, or mentors

What are the first 3-5 steps to take to implement the strategy?

  1. Determine what services you need to prioritize for your students (ex. college application, FAFSA, career exploration, summer transition support) and which students need to be prioritized
  2. Secure the technology
  3. Train staff on how to use the technology
  4. Share information about the new tool with students and families and input student information into the tool

What are potential challenges for implementing the strategy?

  1. Challenge: AI technology may not be able to answer all of students questions or provide the individualized support they need.
    • Solution: Virtual advising tools are designed to expand advisor capacity, not replace it. An option to be connected directly to a counselor or advisor should be built into the tool. These tools can also gather information on what tasks students have completed in order to help advisors target students who may need additional support.
  2. Challenge: It may be more challenging to build relationships via technology.
    • Solution: These tools are most effective when the advisors on the other side have already built a relationship with the student. Counselors and advisors should still meet with students face-to-face; the tool helps to increase the number of touchpoints. Additionally, Student Success Agency has found success in utilizing near-peer mentors who students can more easily build rapport with.
  3. Challenge: Some students may not have access to the necessary devices and connectivity.
    • Solution: Expand access to devices and web-based messaging services that students can use while at school (ex. Chromebooks with Google Voice numbers). If virtual advising tools are used by students who do have the necessary devices and connectivity, it allows counselors to provide targeted outreach to the students who do not.

What are models of schools, districts, and/or organizations that are successfully implementing this strategy?

  • Student Success Agency has partnered with over 300 schools in 18 states to give students unfettered access to digital support services regardless of location. GEAR UP Georgia enrolled 1595 students in grades 10-12 from 35 rural and inner-city schools and identified personalized learning goals and plans for each student. Student and agent engagement was sustained during the pandemic while parental and community involvement added to increased student engagement.
  • Georgia State University has successfully used its AI chatbot, Pounce, to significantly reduce summer melt. Other states and colleges have implemented similar tools including Arizona’s AskBenji FAFSA assistance chatbot.
  • With financial support from Ascendium Education Group, 13 school districts in Wisconsin began Text Steps, a text nudging program designed to help students meet deadlines and complete college enrollment steps. Counselors send about one text a week with reminders, and then follow up with students who respond with questions.The program has helped counselors stay connected with their students over the summer and quickly answer students’ questions.

What are some additional resources for districts/states interested in implementing this strategy?