Why Students Don’t Read Emails


A common problem we hear is that college students don’t read their emails. In one survey, nearly 40% of students reported that they don’t open emails from academic advisors, more than half don’t read emails from their academic department, and 72% treat emails from student organizations like spam.

Commencement and first-year experience offices express the same frustrations. Emails they send to students and parents with important information and resources they need, go unread. So, why don’t students read these emails?!

We decided to do some research into why and here is what we discovered.

Moving Between Devices

98% of people use multiple devices throughout the day. Shifting between devices changes how people read and process information. So students might quickly check email on their computer and plan to come back to it later on their phone. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. When they do shift to smaller phone screens, it is more difficult to read content, especially long content.

Skimming Content

When people move between devices as well as channels such as email, blogs, or websites, they tend to skim for information. This is especially true for anything that is content-heavy. So, students will skim content-heavy emails to capture the main points and easily miss many details.

In addition, the average attention span has shrunk to about 8 seconds for reading the content. So, when students are presented with a content-heavy email, they simply don’t have the attention span to read it thoroughly.

Comprehension Decreases

More than half of website traffic happens on a mobile device. This also applies to reading emails. As we shift to reading more on our phones, we put less mental effort into reading content and our comprehension decreases. 

What does this mean when communicating with students?

Technology is driving changes in how people consume information. While email has its place, technology is changing reading habits and driving people to new channels.

Deliver Information on the Channel of Choice

The mobile phone is the device most people want to use to communicate and, with over 6 billion text messages sent every day, text messaging has become the dominant way to communicate, especially for students. 

Peoplocity is an example of a two-way messaging platform that can be used to send the right message to students and parents at just the right time. In addition to receiving messages, students can use their personalized mobile app to ask questions, resolve issues, and share feedback.

Make the Message Easy

Break large amounts of detailed information into smaller, more digestible chunks that include one or two key points in a single text message. Make information concise and easy to understand and eliminate jargon. Students and their parents need to be able to process information quickly.  If it is appropriate, include links to relevant videos, websites, or pictures.

Just in Time Information

If detailed information is communicated through email, follow up with smaller, just-in-time chunks of information through text messages. Anticipate questions students or parents will have and at what point in time the questions will come up. Proactively send the message and reduce incoming questions. 

Students have grown up using technology and are comfortable in a world of short, concise interactions. Parents have learned to communicate with their college-age children through text messages. Meet them where they are!

About Peoplocity

Peoplocity provides businesses with a messaging platform to communicate with customers. Customers use a personalized mobile app to ask questions, get help, and send feedback. Businesses use a cloud-based platform to respond to customers and to deliver information, reminders, alerts, and promotions to customers on their personalized mobile app. 

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