Supporting additional email addresses for students

This fall, Handshake will allow students to share an alternate email address as their primary contact information. Learn how this update will help your team stay connected to students long term.

At Handshake Access 2021, Christine Cruzvergara, Handshake’s Chief Education Strategy Officer, shared our vision for Handshake’s future. In addition to reimagining the employer trust score, we’ll also aim to make Handshake better mirror the student journey.

Education is no longer linear. As students move from one institution to another, or from institution to industry and back again, they have both a continuous reason to use Handshake and an ever-growing amount of experience to give back to other students on the network.

The vision of a portable Handshake account is still a few years off. In the near term, we want to start laying the groundwork. Later this year, we’ll allow students to add additional email addresses (including personal emails) to Handshake and opt to use them to receive communications from your team and from Handshake. 

This update will give students more flexibility in how they interact with you and Handshake—aligning with a student’s preferred contact method means that students are more likely to engage with your emails. Plus, additional emails will provide a valuable source of contact information for institutions (and their alumni offices) that want to stay in touch with students after graduation. 

If your institution is eager to start letting students share additional email addresses, we’re planning a beta launch of this feature in September 2021. You can learn more about the beta here.

Read on for a deep dive into our research and design process for this initiative.

Research & Design

Like every product development cycle at Handshake, we began with research to inform our approach on additional emails:

  • We investigated how other leading platforms support multiple user email addresses
  • We surveyed students on how they like to receive communications

Collectively, these analyses helped us uncover findings that informed our approach:

  • We confirmed our language with other sites: it’s a known paradigm for “primary” email to be the email on your account that receives notifications.
  • We made a decision to allow students to enter multiple email addresses and then pick their primary. Most other platforms don’t limit the number of emails you can add, but do require one to be the primary email.
  • We validated our approach to ensure students always confirm any new emails on their account. For example, we ask students to confirm an email they enter via first destination survey (FDS) for security purposes.
  • We learned that students may wish to use a personal email or an alternate version of their .edu email as their primary contact information.
  • We uncovered that students’ interest in sharing a personal email with Handshake increases as they get closer to graduation.

This last finding in particular aligned with our hypothesis that students will see the most value in providing alternate contact information as they graduate and transition toward using a personal or work email.

Using these findings as a jumping off point, we began iterating on potential designs. Check out an early mockup we explored below:

Early mockup of additional email entry

Supporting Additional Emails in Handshake

What does the prompt to share additional email addresses look like?

After multiple rounds of design iteration, we landed on this interface for student email management, which will live on the account settings page:

Final design for additional email entry

We also established the following definitions, which help distinguish between different types of emails that Handshake will manage.

  • Primary email address: The email address where students receive all emails that your team sends via Targeted Emails, and all emails from Handshake.
  • Institution email address: The email address your team imports into Handshake.
  • Additional email address: Any other email addresses that a student shares with Handshake. These could be personal emails or alternative .edu emails. Students can enter as many additional email addresses as they wish.

What happens if a student wants to change their primary email address?

By default, the institution email address your team imports will be the student’s primary email address. With this update, students will be able to use an alternate email address as their primary email address instead. Updating their primary email will trigger a confirmation email—the student will need to click a link in the confirmation email to complete the process.

If a student changes their primary email address, the institution email address will still be associated with the student’s account. Furthermore, it will remain connected to your student file imports.

Importantly, nothing is changing about our login flow. If your institution uses single sign on (SSO), that will still be the login method that’s displayed most prominently for students. As far as login is concerned, this update is focused on helping students continue to access Handshake after graduation if they lose access to their institution email or SSO.

Your team will be able to see a student’s primary email address and institution email address in Handshake. This means if a student updates their primary email address, you’ll be able to capture their new, preferred contact information. 

Later this fall, we’ll include primary and institution email addresses in Insights, and within quick downloads throughout Handshake, so that beta institutions have access. In order to respect a student’s preferred method of receiving communication, we will not show any email addresses that the student adds that are not marked as the primary email address.

We know that many schools are also interested in importing multiple email addresses per student (especially institutions where students have several .edu aliases). We’re assessing an update on this front and plan to have conversations with interested schools later this year.

How will Handshake promote this feature to students?

Handshake will proactively communicate with beta institutions about any marketing efforts to encourage their students to add additional email addresses or update their primary email address.

If your institution is interested in participating in our beta launch, we encourage you to consider marketing the option to students. Doing so can supplement your own efforts to maintain up-to-date student contact information post-graduation!

Timeline & Next Steps

The ability for students to provide additional email addresses in Handshake will launch in beta in September. If your institution is interested in participating, you can learn more here. Beta institutions will get a unique opportunity to share feedback on the experience, so we encourage you to join!

The ability for students to provide additional email addresses in Handshake will launch for all institutions later this year. We’ll share details about the exact timeline later this fall.

If you have questions about how additional email support will work, we encourage you to sign up for one of three upcoming Additional Student Email Address Office Hours sessions this fall. On September 29th & October 14th, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about this initiative from Handshake’s Product Team and ask questions as well. More details here.

As always, keep an eye on Handshake’s partner newsletter—we’ll continue to share details on this update throughout the fall. You can also reach out to your Relationship Manager with any questions.