Jul 16, 2011

Social Media Play an Increasing Role in the College Search Process

When it comes to choosing a college, social media are playing an increasingly important role in facilitating connections between institutions and students.

Earlier this year, Maguire Associates, a consulting firm used by educational institutions and scholarship-search website FastWeb surveyed over 21,000 high school seniors to determine the most important factors influencing college enrollment decisions.

Not surprisingly, students consider social media or networking sites “most important” for getting news and announcements about upcoming events and activities, including those posted by colleges and universities.

For these institutions, student use of networking sites suggests the need for a “compelling social media presence,” particularly on Facebook and YouTube.

When asked how such a presence affects interest in applying for admission, 22 percent of the students reported being influenced by something they saw on a social network or other online resource. In fact, over half recall:

• Using a web service to explore their “fit” with colleges and universities (59%)
• Watching a YouTube video created by a school (57%)
• Searching for scholarships using social media or networking sites (56%)
• Reading posts about a school on a social networking site (53%), and
• Reading student blogs or other posts on a college or university website (51%)

Fewer, but still significant proportions of students became fans of or friended a college or university on a social networking site (44%) or chatted online with students enrolled at a particular school (39%).

Most importantly for admissions gurus, nearly a quarter of the seniors surveyed (22%) admit “they more strongly considered applying to a college because of a recommendation read on a social media site.”

And colleges are responding by upgrading their web presence through the use of Facebook “fan” pages, creative videos, and blogs produced by students, faculty and administrators.

For example, students interested in keeping up with admissions at local colleges and universities can choose from an impressive menu of social media offerings including Dean J’s UVa Admissions Blog or a host of promotional videos posted on YouTube by GMU, GW, or the University of MarylandFear the Turtle!

They can be Facebook fans of American University or the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays. Or they can follow Georgetown University on Twitter.

All this goes to support earlier findings from similar studies including one from the UMass Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research titled, “Social Media and College Admissions,” which found that higher education continues to beat business in the adoption of social media tools.

And they’re getting a head start on engaging a whole generation of loyal fans.

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