FacultyEnlight

Teaching Trend: THE ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN HIGHER ED ADMISSIONS

Inez Asante, of Plainsboro, N.J., is a student blogger at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. The blogs, which appear on the college admissions website, help to give prospective students a feel for campus life. (T&G Staff/CHRISTINE PETERSON)

Social media in 2013 has such a strong campus presence that colleges and universities simply can’t afford not to embrace it. So how best can the influx of information and opinions be dealt with? For many higher ed institutions, the answer lies in being proactive, honest, and open. In fact, some institutions are grabbing hold of the next generation of students particularly well, and it’s an attitude that is quickly catching hold.

85% of college admissions offices use social media—but it’s not just for researching applicants. Before being accepted or even applying to certain schools, potential students are searching for information on each and every school; much of this material is being found online. Instead of having students voice opinions about their schools behind closed doors, certain institutions are actually hiring student bloggers to write first-hand about their experiences on campus. Other schools are being proactive by using video messaging and having students interact with their Facebook pages. Tufts University even allows students to submit a one-minute YouTube video along with their application and essay, creating an instant interaction with hopeful high schoolers. And there’s a way to have fun with the whole process, too:  UConn recently created a fun video that captures school spirit using current students and alums alike.

Students aren’t sitting still when it comes to engaging with schools either. In fact, 65% of college students engage with brands via social media at least weekly—and a third of those do so at least three times a day. Several colleges and universities are even in the running to receive the social media-focused Shorty Award, and Barnes & Noble College itself uses everything from Pinterest to dorm-life blog posts as ways to not just create noise with students, but to connect with a true dialogue.

From tweeting to each other to creating student-focused video messaging, all these cases have been win-win: The viewers are satisfied and the schools get applicants who are truly interested in all they have to offer.