Three Steps for Creating a Study Abroad ‘Nudge’ on Your Campus

“Good Nudging makes people think More not Less.” – Changemarkers

Nudges are powerful tools that can and do impact behavior. In my previous post I presented three examples of nudges that led to real behavioral change and affected policy. In this post, I dive into the process for concepting and implementing nudges.

Creating an effective nudge entails setting small incremental steps in place that are targeted at a very specific decision point. Some examples of a specific decision point include: Do I have an apple or a cookie? Do I go to my advising appointment or skip it? Do I upload my passport now or do it later? Should I study abroad or stay on campus with my friends?

Things to keep in mind:

Step 1: Think Small and Identify a Decision Moment

What decision point are you trying to influence? Be as specific as possible, “Grow study abroad culture on campus” is too broad for a nudge to be meaningful. Increase advising appointment attendance, on the other hand, is actionable and measurable.

Step 2: Address a Potential Barrier:

Every decision made is an opportunity for a nudge. Consider potential barriers to the decision moment you identified in Step 1. In what ways can you make the desired decision easier for students? Doing so will ‘nudge’ them towards that outcome. Can students explore programs online at 11pm or do they have to come into the office to see what is available?

Pencils in a jar

Step 3: A/B Test and Iterate:

Every campus is unique and students continue to change, therefore finding a nudge that works for your students will require A/B testing and iteration. A/B testing is the practice of using data to determine which of two variables, when all else is held constant, result in a desired outcome. Does a higher percentage of students attend advising appointments after text message confirmations or email confirmations? Do more students attend info sessions in the rec on Monday nights or Wednesday afternoons? Capturing data on how your students respond and iterating from that data will lead to more effective nudging.

The Behavioral Insights Team in the U.K, created the following framework for designing a nudge.


  • Easy – Make is easy. Simplify the messaging so there is a clear path forward.
  • Attractive – Does it draw our attention?
  • Social – Are you informing people of where they stand compared to others? Use the power of social norms to influence behavior.
  • Timely – When are students most likely to be responsive? Are students nudged to respond in a certain time frame?

Download the Behavioral Insights Team report here for a deeper dive into E.A.S.T.

In the next post, we will explore examples of real nudges from offices around the country.


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