This past Thursday (February 24, 2011), I had the pleasure of viewing the eRecruitment Web Forum for College Admission and Marketing Professionals. This really cool forum dealt with how schools are going about the admissions process online. The internet–particularly social media–really opens up college search and selection for all students, because they are able to engage an unlimited number of schools from their computers.
I think this is important, because by creating a dialog between students and a school, the prospective student is able to gain a “sense” of the school and figure out if the school would be a good fit for them.
During the first part of the forum, representatives from Stanford, Berkley, Cal Poly, and Pacific discussed this idea of “online student engagement.” Online student engagement refers to efforts on part of the colleges to engage students through the various social media avenues that exist. Why you ask? Because so many students spend time on sites like Facebook, You Tube, and Twitter. This creates a great opportunity for you all as prospective students is that there ARE SO MANY TOOLS AND RESOURCES AVAILABLE LITERALLY AT YOUR FINGERTIPS!
This is not to say that “offline” recruitment is dead. Indeed, most of the participants were quick to point out that online tools and eRecruitment were just one strategy–albeit, an important strategy—in recruitment. It is still important for colleges to send pamphlets through the mail and encourage students to visit. Nonetheless, the admissions landscape has been changed.
As a prospective student, it is still important for you to engage schools through college fairs and visitations. The diligent student will use these online resources to their advantage and find schools that are a good fit for them. These students will already have a good idea of what they are looking for when they start visiting schools, so they can narrow down on their top choices instead of taking a “shotgun approach” (i.e.: applying to a lot of different schools). This approach is more strategic and successful, in addition to being more economical, as expensive college visitations will be reserved for schools they have already engaged online.
So this raises the question, which online tools/social media sites are the best for college admissions? There are so many sites out there, and I would suggest that you try out a few of them and see what works for you. However, if you could only use three sites, they would have to be:
The College Confidential Forums single-handedly helped me keep my sanity when I was applying to college. This is a really active community of high school students, parents, and college students. In fact, yours truly remains active on the Wake Forest section of the boards. While College Confidential is helpful, high school students should keep in mind that the students that post on CC (as it is affectionately known) are super-ambitious and DO NOT REPRESENT REALITY. I remember getting very down when I first went on there, because it seemed like every other person had a 1600 on their SAT (when the SAT was actually out of1600) and started their own charity. Use with caution.
A start-up out of Pittsburgh by a Carnegie Mellon alum, College Prowler is student-written college review site that covers everything from academics to the attractiveness of the student body. It is quite a clever concept that certainly talks about aspects of college life (including drug and alcohol prevalence) that your average guidebook is not going to touch. As with College Confidential, take College Prowler with a grain of salt. It is a valuable resource, but take it as one part of the total equation.
Finally, we have Unigo which takes the concept of College Prowler to the next level. Unigo combines student-written college reviews with an assortment of media (including videos and pictures) for each school. In addition to all of this, Unigo has some pretty interesting articles and has even teamed up with the Wall Street Journal to bring you even more content. Like College Confidential and College Prowler (and every other resource out there), Unigo should be used as one tool and NOT the end all.
eRecruitment and the emergence of social media as a viable recruitment strategy certainly brings some new and interesting options to prospective college students. The secret to using all of these different tools is treating them as such. For example, if you were building a car, would you just use a hammer? Absolutely not, and why should college admissions be any different?