Connect me, and I will make my choice | May 17, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - May 17, 2013

Connect me, and I will make my choice

Colleges should revamp their social media networking strategies

by Nikita Mehandru

I got accepted. These words flood newsfeeds on Facebook each spring as college decisions come out. High school seniors yearn to utter these words in the most anticipated months of their high school education. Yet, when deciding where to enroll, prospective students are not just checking college websites. A college's Facebook and Twitter accounts take priority. Colleges should revamp their social media networking platforms. Otherwise, they will be left behind as the children of the Google and Yahoo generation make their choices.

The wired generation today is overwhelmed with college brochures through email and mail. Prospective students seek out social media networks to learn about the academic and social strengths of colleges. They want to take virtual on-campus tours, read student profiles, and speak and interact with current students. A study by Inigral and Zinch surveyed 7,000 college bound high school students. A reported 72% of incoming high school seniors have already researched their prospective colleges on a social media site. More important, nearly one-third of the students surveyed used social media when deciding where to enroll. Prospective students want the interaction that college brochures cannot provide.

The race to engage in social media networks has proven intense, with many colleges engaging in more than one network. A study in the Journal of College Admission evaluated the top 100 colleges and universities ranked by U.S. News & World Report. These schools on average used 3.7 social networks, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The most popular social networks need to be prioritized. In the Inigral and Zinch survey, Facebook has proven to be the most popular with 88% reporting they used the site, followed by 44% users for Twitter. If colleges desire to limit their social media presence to a couple of social networks, Facebook should take priority as 53% of reported high schoolers surveyed said they used it multiple times a day.

Merely having a Facebook page is not enough. Prospective students want as much information from current students as possible. Students want an honest perspective of the positives and negatives of the college, not found in mailed pamphlets. As a result, colleges and universities have been creative in attracting students. Princeton University has the "I Heart Princeton" video featuring students, faculty and alumni making a heart with their hands. Other universities have proven bold by letting current students take the field. At Johns Hopkins University, its social media website, Hopkins Interactive, provides uncensored information from current students about campus life and life in Baltimore, and includes student profiles of these writers, updated blogs and videos.

Although social media networks appeal to prospective students, parents are often the ones paying the tuition bill. Thus, social media networks do not substitute the pretty pamphlets received by mail. In 2010, Kaplan Test Prep surveyed admissions officers at 386 of the nation's top colleges and universities. The results found that 77% reported that parental involvement in the admissions cycle is on the rise. The so-called "helicopter" hovering over their child is prevalent and thus parental satisfaction of a college should be taken into account.

Parents are not the ones attending the college. While they often are left to pay the tuition bill no payments will be made if their child is not happy and will not thrive in the environment. Thus, catering to prospective students using social media platforms with uncensored information by current students at the college is the best tactic. A choice will be made if future students and current students are connected.

--Nikita Mehandru attended Amador Valley High school where she was involved in Mock Trial, varsity tennis, Chamber Choir and We The People: Competition Civics. She graduated in 2011 and is now a sophomore at Claremont McKenna College, one of the Claremont Colleges in Southern California. Inspired by her study of the U.S Constitution on the We The People team in which her team placed second in the nation in Washington, D.C., she is dual majoring in economics and government. She hopes for a career that interrelates both disciplines.


Posted by Tania, a resident of Ruby Hill
on Aug 6, 2013 at 6:36 pm

This is a fantastic article. I absolutely agree that reapproaching the application process by targeting college students through social media services is one of the best ways to facilitate communication.
A lot of us naturally turn to such sources for information, but no one has formally written an article on this, and it is nice to see something in the local newspaper that mirrors what so many future college students these days are doing.
You did a great job addressing such concerns as well as sources of information that would be better suited for parents.
Overall, a very well written piece!

Posted by Beth, a resident of Happy Valley
on Aug 7, 2013 at 8:48 am

Maybe I am just an old fuddy-duddy, but today's youth seem too caught up in facebook and twitter.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Aug 8, 2013 at 2:40 pm

no're just an ole hen...face it!

ps not facebook it, but face it you ole hen!