Using Social Media to Learn About Colleges

Using Social Media to Learn About Colleges

by Becky Georgenes 

Senior College Counselor

Road to College


Just google college admission and social media and you’ll find plenty of links to stories about how colleges are using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc to attract students, and how students are using these same platforms to learn about colleges. Reports compare marketing campaigns, “likes” and “followers” to say which colleges are doing it best, and how this is impacting the business of college admissions. However, I wanted to add to the commentary on a purely individual level on how it can help an applicant or a family to learn about a school – even if you can’t get there for a visit.


·      Use social media for the right reasons. While some students follow a school’s social media accounts because they think that colleges will keep track of followers and it will ultimately help their application, there are more important reasons to do so. It is actually a great way to get a window into life on that campus. What is the weather like throughout the year? What does it look like students are doing with their free time? How is the school presenting itself?  (One of the colleges I “follow” happened to be in the same city as a national violent tragedy. The following day, I saw the school’s response to the event on Facebook. I remember feeling heartened by the thoughtfulness, insight and perspective expressed by the school and the students.) 

·      Both you and your son/daughter can follow the accounts. If a picture or story shows up in your feed, your child will probably have seen the same thing. It’s a great conversation starter for parents who lament that most of their conversations about college with their high schooler end up feeling like nag sessions and adding to the family stress. Instead, you can start the conversation by asking if your child saw the picture of the snowmen that students on campus made outside the library after a big storm.

·      Social media can provide talking points prior to an on campus or alumni interview.  When asked by an admission officer, “Why are you interested in attending our University?” an applicant can reply, “I saw the YouTube Video about the research that a student was doing with a professor in the biology department. I was wondering…..”  Or when asked by an alum in an off campus interview, “Do you have any additional questions for me?” The applicant can respond, “On a recent Instagram post, I saw that it is a tradition for students to camp out to get tickets for basketball games. Did you do this while you were a student there?”

·      And once your child is actually a student at the college, be sure to keep following the school’s social media. It can help you feel connected to campus life, even if you aren’t hearing from your son/daughter very often. It can be a subtle (or not so subtle) talking point for you to make sure that your child is not spending all their free time playing computer games alone in their room: After seeing an Instagram post made by the college during finals of my son’s first semester in college, I texted my son to ask if he had had a chance to play with the “therapy puppies” that were brought on campus by student services to reduce the stress of exams. I was rewarded with a cute picture of a baby golden doodle on his lap. I didn’t get to see my son’s face, but his feet looked great!

Summer Dreaming

by Lisa Cynamon Mayers

Former Admission Counselor Washington University in St Louis

A high school student’s ideal summer vacation should involve growth, learning, relaxation and fun. Summer is a time for exploration and skill building. It is an opportunity to extend learning beyond the confines of the classroom. Though it’s still winter and summer seems eons away, students and parents should begin discussing and researching summer options sooner than later. Some important questions to ask as you embark on the process:

  1. What would you most like to explore this summer that isn’t taught in school? This could be an academic subject, a skill set, a hobby, etc. Perhaps you’ve always been interested in learning a language that isn’t taught at your high school. Or you’re eager to explore what an architect does on a daily basis. Or you want to experience working with children, the elderly or the environment. Use your summer vacation to expand your knowledge.
  2. How important is it for you to earn money over the summer? This is a critical question. Due to a range of circumstances is it necessary for you to earn and save money over the summer? If the answer is yes, you will need to aggressively pursue paid employment. College admission counselors don’t place a higher value on summer academic programs over paid employment. The responsibility and skills gained through employment, whether as a lifeguard, camp counselor, snack shop employee or cashier, can prepare you for the future that lies ahead.
  3. How much money can your family invest in a summer program? There are amazing summer programs-- academic experiences, travel, service work-- for students to consider. Many of these programs can be pricey. As a family you need to seriously consider how much money you can invest in a summer learning experience. There is not a direct correlation between pricey summer programs and college acceptances.
  4. What might you want to discover about yourself? Summer is a fantastic opportunity to challenge yourself into exploring previously undiscovered dimensions of your personality or interests. Consider ways to move beyond your comfort zone as you develop your summer possibilities.

The bottom line is whether you choose to pursue an internship, research position, employment, travel, summer academic program, etc., college admission counselors will not elevate one of these experiences above all others. Every student is different. Everyone’s goals are different. And at the end of the day you should utilize your summer in a way that is most appropriate for you.

Beginning the College Search Process - A Guide for Juniors

 By Sara Cronin - Senior Admissions Consultant  

 Former Providence and University of Connecticut Admissions 

Second semester junior year is an excellent time to begin to think about, investigate and plan for the college search process. Many juniors have received their PSAT score reports and with that comes the discussion about what lies ahead following graduation from high school. Many students wonder, where do I begin and how do I know what to look for? Below is a guide to help you begin this exciting and sometimes challenging journey.

I.          Know yourself

Think about what it is you like to do, study, read, discuss, and contemplate. Conversely, it is also important to consider what you don't like to study or if there are particular subjects in school that do not hold your interest. It is your interests, abilities, values, goals and ambitions that will help drive your college search in a particular direction. As you begin to contemplate potential areas of study it is often difficult to consider all the possible options. An interest inventory, career inventory or personality assessment can be good tools to help you get a handle on your strengths and weaknesses. Road To College offers a great way to begin this exploration via our High School Planning or Admission Revue- you can find them here:

II.         Begin the process early and keep an open mind

School break during February and March is an excellent time to begin the search in person; however, there is a great deal to be seen via the internet. Set time aside to do some surfing on the web. Colleges have their own individual websites and there are many college exploration sites as well. If your family is traveling during school vacation try to make a point to visit colleges that may be on your travel route. Begin to consider what may play a factor in your decision: size, distance from home, location, public vs. private, and school philosophy. Just as important when thinking about these factors is to keep an open mind. There are over 3,000 undergraduate colleges and universities across the country and many of these schools can provide the right fit for your college needs. A few great school websites to explore:

UVA provides an interactive and interesting site:

GWU offers the opportunity to closely navigate what it is like to be in the city:

The University of Chicago offers an website that is easy to navigate:

Brown University shares many great images to view:

III.        Do your research

Attend college fairs, presentations and panels. Talk to people such as guidance counselors, college students on break, parents, and friends. Once you have taken the PSAT and as you proceed to take the SAT or ACT, colleges will begin to send you various pieces of information. Read the literature and collect information that is important to you: are you interested in attending a large university that offers unique research opportunities; are you interested in a small college experience where you get to know all your professors; are you considering going to school a distance from home? One place to begin to gather information is at a college fair.  Often high schools will host small fairs; however, there are also national college fairs that attract a large and diverse groups of colleges and universities. Find one in your area this late winter/ early spring:  These College Fairs are often a great place to begin to gather information and to speak with someone from the admissions office.

Road To College is here to help.  Questions that arise can be answered by calling 888-835-4620.