It was a normal December afternoon when Alex Peck returned home to find a freshly sealed letter from Gustavus Adolphus College waiting for him on the counter. His ordinary December afternoon soon turned extraordinary when he opened the letter to find a confirmation of his acceptance to Gustavus Adolphus College.
Like most prospective students, he was thirsty to find out exactly what he would be committing to before he made a final decision. The tempting pamphlets and official letters were all fine, but Peck needed insight from real students. So he sought the guidance of his older cousin who had graduated in 1996. She was able to share with him her experiences, solidifying, for him, his place at Gustavus.
“I realized that hearing my cousin’s first hand experiences were much more benificial to me than the brochures and pamphlets I had been receiving from Gustavus,” Peck said.
Peck, who is now a first-year, is just one of many students who utilize a more hands-on approach to discovering information about their college. Today, face-to-face discussion and social media provide an uncensored peek at universities. For colleges competing to attract first choice students, brochures and letters no longer suffice on their own.
Schools like Gustavus are reaching out to engage with prospective students on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. They’re also finding that creative features such as student blogs and videos are more effective lures to students than a purely informational online presence.
College admissions officers are learning to seek and interact with students where they hang out best: online. They’re also learning to utilize a creative online presence for those who need a substitute to physical college visits.
As social media continues to expand within universities, so do the social platforms utilized. As students look for new places to explore, Facebook is no longer the only social giant that colleges are learning to use.
Since 2012, institutions have began using apps such as Instagram and Twitter mostly to cater to three distinct groups: prospective students searching for a home away from home, current students sharing their own residential experiences, and alumni reminiscing about their time on campus.
These three distinct groups have been utilized by Gustavus through their Facebook and Twitter pages, including Overheard at Gustavus and Gustavus Adolphus College, among others.
While these platforms have just begun to be utilized by universities on the computer, the attention has shifted to platforms that are optimized for mobile use and excel at one task like Instagram does with photography.
By creating and maintaining Instagram accounts, universities have found a simple, not to mention free, way to interact with students where email and other forms of communication could go unnoticed.