The campus is beautiful, the philosophy department is renowned, the slate of student activities is diverse. But how many Facebook likes does the school have, and is the Twitter account active?
As this blog reported earlier this week, top U.S. colleges are jockeying for position on a new ranking: most powerful presence on popular social media sites. And it turns out this stuff matters to students. A lot.
A recent survey of 7,000 high schoolers by online education resources Zinch and Inigral found that more than two-thirds have used sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest to check out prospective universities. About 38 percent of respondents said they used social media as a resource when deciding where to enroll.
We’ve come a long way since the days of glossy brochures and gargantuan ranking books. Today’s high schoolers pay attention to whether admissions counselors offer video chats. They notice whether there is a Pinterest presence or a Facebook promotion.
“Social media has revolutionized university engagement,” said Dean Tsouvalas of StudentAdvisor.com, which has its own list of social media-savvy colleges. The best, he said, use “social media to keep their own communities informed and show the world what they are all about.”
As Duke University’s social media manager, Cara Rousseau makes sure the North Carolina school is reaching out to high school seniors online.
“We know that prospective students use many tools to research schools they’re interested in applying to,” she told U.S. News & World Report. “Our social media handles and pages have been a big way for us to communicate with prospective students.”
Not surprisingly, Facebook is the most commonly utilized social media platform among high schoolers, according to the Zinch and Inigral data, with 53 percent of respondents using the site multiple times each day. And 55 percent of those students reported using Facebook to research schools.
That makes Facebook, which fittingly began as a social networking site for college students, the most important platform for universities to use, according to Rousseau. “We’re seeing more and more that high school and college students are going to Facebook before they go to Google,” she said.
And certainly before they go to the library to flip through the latest edition of the 1,000-page, photo-less ranking books upon which their parents relied. Those were (not) the days.