As the cost of college continues to rise, it has become increasingly important for students to apply for financial aid. However, many students are unaware of the benefits of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). We launched a field experiment with a non-profit organization to explore how both informational- and testimonial-type text messages impacted FAFSA application rates. 2,236 potential students were randomized into three groups: a control group that focused on reminders for upcoming deadlines, a treatment group that focused on benefits-framed messaging, and a second treatment group that combined the benefit messages with testimonial messages. Each group received 8 text messages from late September 2020 to early March 2021. Though both treatment groups were significantly better at motivating FAFSA applications than the control, the condition with benefits-framed and testimonial messages was the most effective. Participants in this condition were 87% more likely to make a FAFSA appointment than the control group.
Jason Jabbari, Stephen Roll, Sam Bufe, Jessica McKay. “Take my word for it”: Group Texts and Testimonials Enhance State and Federal Student Aid Applications, Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, Volume 98, 2022, 101864, ISSN 2214-8043,