Using Social Media to Learn About Colleges

Using Social Media to Learn About Colleges

by Becky Georgenes 

Senior College Counselor

Road to College

rgeorgenes@roadtocollege.com

 

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!

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