Yield management (a/k/a marketing) officers at colleges have gotten the memo: students like social media! It is no wonder, then, that colleges have taken to new networks to promote their schools far and wide, without breaking the advertising budget. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter make it possible to send their messages right into their targets' phones. The institutions' websites are replete with photos, virtual tours, academic calendars and course catalogs. Look more closely and you'll find student and admission office blogs, with required course lists, descriptions of living arrangements, extracurricular participation and sports teams. If a student cares to partake, he or she can sign up to receive all kinds of electronic notifications from any number of educational institutions.
But is this a good idea? College websites offer a lot of information, but it is by definition what they want their prospective applicants to see. How can what schools choose to share help a busy junior or senior decide whether to put the college on their list or write it off? Rather than passively accept all the information that colleges are putting out, smart students need to use social media on their own terms. Below are three ways a student can research a college:
Look at student blogs. Most colleges do not censor what their students write, and they are likely to be more accurate in portraying the school they love, warts and all.
Visit the college and sit in on a class, talk to a professor, eat in a dining hall and engage current students. If you can't actually go, ask the admissions office to connect you by e-mail or Skype with a current student.
Check out outside sources of first-hand information, such as College Prowler or Unigo. Just remember to keep your critical faculties on high alert! You shouldn't necessarily believe some guy who happens to comment on College Confidential. What are his credentials? What does he even know about you?
Need some guidance making sense of the information overload? Click the “Contact” button at the bottom of the page.