College students were among the first to adopt social media just a few years ago. Universities quickly followed in order to reach students at their digital hangout spots. Now both sides continue to adjust to the evolving world of social media.
The Benefits of Being Social
Students and schools are realizing just how useful social media has become. The University of Ottawa has discovered that students like social media because it is easier than using other means of contact. Sending a tweet or posting a message on Facebook is more convenient when you have a problem than sifting through campus telephone directories.
“It’s not just posters and signs now. You need to come and reach us: we are always on our phones, computers.” – Lisa Longchamps, University of Ottawa student
Ryerson University has found that the administration will often find out about problems on Twitter sooner than they do from their own staff. Because of the immediate feedback from social networks, the school is able to issue alerts and maintain a live blog of known issues, such as when students take to Twitter to complain of slow Wi-Fi access.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is applauding the benefits of social media for recruiting international students. MIT actually has no budget for international recruitment, so it relies on technology to reach students in other countries. Communicating in real-time with potential students at zero cost has now become an essential part of recruitment. The conversations across social media are necessary to vet the right students and weed out the ones that are only attracted to its prestigious name.
“What’s great about social media is that your audience is talking back to you. Before, recruitment was sort of, you want to push your message out. Now it’s a dialogue.” Henry Broaddus, College of William and Mary, Dean of Admissions
As of August 2012, 85 percent of colleges said they use Facebook to recruit students, and 66 percent said they use YouTube as a recruitment tool. Along with this, one in three colleges reported social media was more effective than traditional media in reaching prospective students.
Admissions Gone Social
According to a new Kaplan survey of college admissions officials, more than one in four respondents said they check Google and Facebook for information on applicants, up from one in ten when Kaplan started tracking the trend in 2008. Of those who check, 35% said they have found information that negatively impacted an applicant’s chance of acceptance, up from 12% last year.
Now that colleges are checking out applicant profiles online, students have come up with some creative adjustments. These include temporarily changing their names, deactivating profiles, increasing privacy settings, and creating a duplicate account that presents an “ideal self” to admissions investigators. These alter egos come in handy when students are forced to accept a friend request, such as when applying for scholarships.
“Since students don’t volunteer this information to the admissions office, they don’t see it as lying. Instead, they feel that if admissions officers are going to dig up dirt on them by prying in their personal lives, then they are going to game the system and create fake personas for them to discover.”