The college search process can sometimes feel overwhelming. There are many different resources that go into developing a balanced college list, but sometimes the tools that are overlooked are the ones many high school students use every day: social media networks.
With a generation that’s more connected than ever, it’s no wonder students spend a lot of their time online. We’ve talked about how some admissions officers use the Internet and social media to check up on applicants, but now an increasing number of students are utilizing social media to size up prospective schools, too, when developing a balanced college list.
As we’ve highlighted before, a survey of high school students on their use of social media in the college search process revealed that 68% of students used social media to research schools, and 38% said they used it as a research tool when deciding where to enroll.
While it’s beneficial to “like” Facebook pages and “follow” the Twitter accounts of schools to show demonstrated interest, you can take it a step further by using the information on these networks to build a bigger profile that organizes what you like about a particular institution.
The micro-blogging site Twitter is a great way to keep track of what’s going on at the schools you’re interested in applying to. Because of the short-form content and constant updates, prospective students can get a better sense of the news, events, issues, and interactions that happen day-to-day at a particular institution.
Many departments within colleges manage their own separate Twitter accounts, so you can get the latest updates on what’s going on in a major or course of study you’re interested in.
Twitter is also a great way to interact with the school itself. Social media managers are often very responsive to questions and comments from followers, so it’s a great way to engage in a conversation about aspects that interest you.
You can also follow certain “hashtags” that may be associated with a college or university to see what others on Twitter have to say about the school. Some schools and admissions offices even host and participate in Twitter chats with prospective applicants.
Twitter can also be useful when researching higher education in general. Follow reporters, counselors, and other experts who can keep you informed on what’s going on in the admissions world, such as Common Application changes and deadline extensions.
Another effective social media platform to use during your college search is Facebook. In the social media survey, 55% of respondents said they used Facebook to review a school’s background when researching colleges.
Like Twitter, prospective students can keep up with current events and news, but Facebook is different in that it’s a more visual platform, allowing for a better view (literally!) of the campus itself.
For those students who are unable to visit a college in person, virtual tours are sometimes available on a school’s website. But often those online guides are not updated regularly, and can leave much to the imagination as to what campus life is actually like. However, on Facebook many schools post current photos and videos that give followers a glimpse into student life on campus.
It’s also a great way to learn something about a school’s history that applicants might not have otherwise discovered. For example, University of Missouri posted a photo that provided background on the campus’s famous columns, and schools like Smith College and Boston University frequently post photos and information from their archives. Students researching colleges on Facebook can get a full picture of a school’s student culture and programs, both past and present.
Another outlet students might overlook when using social media to research colleges and universities is Pinterest. As the fastest growing social networking site to date, schools have been looking for ways to capitalize on Pinterest’s popularity. The result is a collection of both visual and informational links that can give prospective students a glimpse into the lighter side of the campus culture.
Content offered on schools’ Pinterest boards is often a mix of campus resources, links to school information and publications, admissions tips, and general information for high schools making the transition into college.
Babson’s Pinterest is a great example of how schools use this social media outlet to connect with prospective students, current students, and alumni. Students looking to apply can obtain information on alumni, study abroad programs, campus life, and other details about the school that may not be easily accessible through their website.
If you’re looking for a little more insight into how the admissions process works at certain schools, Tumblr has become a great blogging outlet for admissions offices. Schools like University of Chicago, Purdue, Johns Hopkins, and Yale have taken to Tumblr to reach prospective students and offer open information on the admissions process within the university.
Blog managers answer questions about applications, admissions decisions, deadlines, college visits, and much more, while also providing an inside look into what goes on in their offices. Tumblr is also used as an outlet to make announcements about when admissions decisions are being released or if there are any application changes.
If you’re concerned with understanding how the admissions office at a particular institution functions prior to applying, Tumblr is a great place to do more in-depth research.
We’ve talked a lot about how visual elements are great ways to get a sense of a campus, and while nothing beats an in-person campus visit, Instagram is another way to get a bigger picture of a college or university.
Schools and departments within institutions have taken to the photo sharing app to give followers a “behind-the-scenes” look at daily life on campus that they might not normally see. Admissions offices have provided “insider photos” and first-glimpse images of decision letters ready to go out or the process of preparing for an information session. Instagram is another way for colleges to connect with students and for prospective applicants to see how an institution engages with its followers.
Research is key when finding your best-fit school, and it’s crucial to leave no stone unturned. While it’s important to become familiar with a school’s website and to physically visit the campus if you can, social media outlets are effective supplemental research tools. Arming yourself with all the information possible will help you develop a college list that meets all of your interests and needs!