Boost academic performance with text messaging

How empathetic chatbots help students succeed and persist

For a group of students at Georgia State University, text messaging made the difference between passing and failing a required course.

In a recent RCT (Randomized Controlled Trial), students who received timely messages from Mainstay’s empathetic chatbots showed significant improvement in their academic success.

These outcomes confirm the objective impact of timely, relevant, and non-judgmental support in the lives of students.

Want to see how Mainstay can deliver similar results at your school?

The results speak for themselves

11+ points
First-generation students earned final grades about 11 points higher than similar students not receiving supportive messages
B or higher
Students with lower academic performance in high school were more likely to earn a B or higher and complete more credit hours
16% boost in letter grade
There was a 16% increase in the likelihood that students would earn a B or higher in the class
7+ points
Continuing students achieved final grades about 7 points higher. They were more likely to pass and less likely to drop GSU courses across the board

Setting students up for success

The goal of this program was to improve course performance where students are most likely to struggle — including virtual courses, high-enrollment classes, and courses with high D, F, and withdrawal rates.

Students in the program received 2-3 messages per week from Mainstay. The chatbot would remind them about upcoming assignments and reassured them if they were having trouble with something. We also shared campus support systems, tools, and resources.

Mainstay’s automated 2-way chatbot messages included:

3 key pillars of academic success

Throughout the course of this RCT, Mainstay identified 3 key ways we could significantly impact students’ academic success using text messaging:


Consistent guidance

Regular nudges and weekly reminders were very effective at keeping students on track throughout the semester.


Supportive outreach

Providing students with supplemental learning and resources proved the most valuable for academic success.


Encouraging messages

Non-judgmental messages put students at ease, validate their feelings, and remind them that they are not in this alone.

Closing the achievement gap for first-generation students

Students who do not have access to the same support system and resources as their peers can face a distinct disadvantage, leading to a widening achievement gap.

Our recent RCT shows that messages from Mainstay’s empathetic chatbots resonated especially deeply with first-generation students, who were more likely to pass the class and earn final grades about 11 points higher than similar students not receiving supportive messages.

Learn how you can partner with Mainstay to achieve results like this at your school.

What students are saying

the Next steps

The path to expanding student access

This study clearly shows that providing students with timely, personalized support increases the likelihood that they will succeed academically.

So what comes next? More research with even more students. That’s why GSU is working with Mainstay to expand the experiment during the spring 2022 semester.

By scaling this type of data-driven outreach, we can give every student — especially our most at-risk ones — the chance they deserve to succeed academically.