AdmitHub’s Chatbots Combat Summer Melt Amongst Low-Income Students
Are you familiar with the term “summer melt”?
It’s a phenomenon that refers to prospective college students whose interest in college begins to wither (or more accurately “melt”) away through a combination of factors. The most common being the lack of resources, such as funding or financial aid, the lack of answers found on the college’s website, and/or declining motivation due to personal issues.
For AdmitHub’s founding team Andrew Magliozzi and Kirk Daulerio, they understood the frustration that these college-interested students face. Both of them have had extensive experience in working with college students and high schoolers who are looking to apply to college. Daulerio previously worked as an admissions counselor at Princeton and has witnessed students going through the ‘summer melt’ first-hand.
In Magliozzi’s case, it was his previous work at a college tutoring company in Harvard Square as well as his (as he puts it) “social entrepreneurial mindset” that led him down the path to starting a company with Daulerio.
“It’s interesting because we’ve crossed paths a few times throughout our careers, and at the time [of the company’s founding in 2014] we hadn’t spoken to each other in a few years,” remembers Magliozzi. “I reached out to Kirk by happenstance and told him about this opportunity.”
The company has developed a SaaS platform for colleges that enable students to speak with the school directly, and receive answers regarding tuition, admission deadlines, and other concerns.
“A lot of the students that need the most help are either low-income or first-generation college students that are already reluctant to reach out for help,” said Magliozzi. “We wanted something that was democratizing so that everyone can have access to it.”
The founders’ combined experience with education and technology have allowed them to create a system that, as Magliozzi describes, “infuses efficiency and joy” into the process of college admission without the anxieties.
“When we first started the company, we weren’t sure what to do and avoided using bots,” Daulerio said. “We got an idea when I asked, ‘Wouldn’t it be crazy to finish an application through text?’”
AdmitHub’s technology, and their users
“I like to think of us not as a chatbot company, but an AI company that happens to use chatbots,” said Magliozzi.
When the team at AdmitHub was developing their platform, they wanted to figure what kind of communication would be universal amongst college students. They found that SMS is the easiest and most effective way to reach the students.
AdmitHub’s core technology involves both AI and machine learning for their chatbots to send responses to a student. A prospective student will text a number that corresponds with the school and asks a question. The platform has already taken in information from the school’s forums and website and based on the student’s question, and with this, AdmitHub can give the student an answer. The typical questions regarding tuition, due dates, etc. are automated, but if the student has a more personal concern (one where a human response would be more appropriate), it can switch to a counselor on the campus.
Another feature of the platform is being able to name the chatbot after the school’s mascot. It’s a nice touch that gives the bot more personality and makes the experience a little more fun.
“It’s our thesis that ‘The moment a student is ready to engage, you need to run with it as quickly as possible,” said Magliozzi. “So, they may reply at 1 o’clock in the morning, but the automation can run them through whatever the most pressing question is on their plate at that moment.”
“We see a lot of engagement after 8 o’clock at night or between 6 and 8 in the morning,” said Daulerio. “The opportunity for the AI provides an answer within seconds, as opposed to waiting for a response on the phone or through email. That was something that Georgia State really wanted to supercharge with their staff.”
One of the company’s first clients is Georgia State University, which is a public school and more than half of their students are Pell Grant recipients. Around 2015, the school was experiencing an ongoing issue with students who were dropping out before the Fall semester. The company began testing the platform’s effectiveness and also got in contact with faculty with University of Pittsburgh and USC Santa Barbara to observe and report what they found at Georgia State. The college’s use of AdmitHub proved to be successful, as Georgia State had an increased enrollment. It was also the first-time the college used a chatbot.
Since then, Georgia State has been using the platform, and other colleges experiencing similar pain points like Arizona State University and Winston-Salem State University, have begun implementing AdmitHub.
“Since we started in the South, a lot of schools in that area started to join up. Now it’s an abundance of institutions, ranging from the nationally known to the small liberal arts colleges, to even community colleges,” said Daulerio. “We have a couple of international institutions as well.”
The two co-founders also plan to expand into other parts of the country, including the Boston area.
What is AdmitHub up to today?
The company is an alumnus of the Techstars Boston program and, most recently, won in the EdTech category of the Boston Startup Challenge hosted by GSVlabs. They remain hard-at-work making the college admissions experience less stressful for low-income students and allowing them to have a little less anxiety when reaching out for help.
“We now have hundreds of thousands of students sending millions of messages,” said Daulerio, “but the most common message from the students is ‘Thank you.’”
Images courtesy of AdmitHub