Change Theory Undergirds Student Communication Plan

William Ratliff
Published October 13, 2020

Change theory and a focus on removing barriers help drive Amarillo College's student communications.

For prospective students, there are many ways that they can begin to interact with Amarillo College: through his/her high school, the AC website, a recruiting event, by visiting campus, or even on social media. And Amarillo College is ready. However an initial prospect comes in through the physical or proverbial door, there is a plan to continue to engage that student.

The foundational aspect of this plan is simple. It’s based on change theory. The concept goes something like this – if a student’s experience with the onboarding process* is good, then a student’s attitude going forward is that things will be positive and work out going forward. However, if that experience of onboarding is bad, frustrating, or in any way negative, there is a much greater chance that the attitude of the student going forward will be to anticipate negative outcomes as it relates to Amarillo College.

Whether it’s a student fresh out of high school, or an adult student returning to the classroom, if they are confused, have a poor experience at some point along the way of the onboarding process, or get to class and realize they’re unsure what’s going on, they will likely get discouraged and may even drop all their classes and never return.

Enter the student communication plan. Initially implemented in 2019 and powered by a customer relationship management software, Radius, this plan’s purpose is to keep the lines of communication open and continually reach out to students to let them know that they are supported each step of the way.

AC interested There are three main ways that student information enters the Radius database. The first of these is if a prospective student visits the website and clicks on the “Interested in AC” button located on the right side of the screen (pictured below)

  1. “Interested in AC” button on the website
  2. Student lists from local or area high schools
  3. A student submits an application for admission (electronically or in-person)


Depending on how that information is received, the student may be assigned to a certain “life cycle.” There are four of these cycles: Suspect, Interested, Applicant, and Enrollment. A student can enter any of these life cycles at any point. It depends on their level of interest and at what point they are ready to apply and enroll

All of the student data that is received via the high schools are initially placed into the “Suspect” plan. Once they fill out an interest card at either a recruiting event or on the website, they will then be placed in one of the other lifecycles. Even though these students are in our database, the students in this lifecycle do not receive regular emails.

Student email ex2  

Once a prospective student fills out an interest card (either physically or electronically) they are placed on the “Interested” plan. If a prospect fills out an interest card online, there is an immediate response. A “Thank you” email is sent to them letting them know AC received their information and will be in touch (see image to left.) They are then sent a series of targeted emails and text messages encouraging the interested party to apply for admission.

When a person fills out an application, they are then put on the plan that encourages them in the process and describes what next steps are required to get them enrolled. This includes things like transcripts from high school or other college work, test scores, shot records, and filling out the FAFSA.

As students get to this point, another cog in the wheel engages: the enrollment specialists. When a student applies, a “case” gets created that the enrollment specialists begin to work. They begin to contact the students and provide additional support for the student. They schedule phone calls to follow up. They help answer questions and provide guidance. They encourage students and as Bob Austin, VP of Enrollment Management puts it, “help demystify the process of enrollment.”

This is especially important for first-generation college students. Many of these students have no experience with college and neither do their parents or family members. There is no one there to help explain the process and help navigate the often scary and intimidating world of college for these college-students-to-be. The extra help and support of the enrollment specialists are vital for these students in particular.

This whole process is about making sure prospective and current students feel that, “AC is the right place for me,” and continue to feel that way throughout the initial interest phase, the application phase, and the enrolling phase. These are just the first few steps in the process. Our Culture of Caring is what keeps students feeling “loved to success” during their entire experience here. Each of these works in tandem to help students know that AC is the right place to be, right now.


AC cares2

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