How To Use Social Media to Enhance Your College Search
Social media use in the college admission process has long been considered a controversial subject. High school students are often reminded by well-intentioned counselors and parents to lock up their social media content and be leary of what they post and “like” online. This sage advice holds true even after decades of social media use. If we have learned anything, it has been to be careful about what you choose to tweet, like, follow, or Tik Tok in an online world where every move is scrutinized.
While controlling the narrative surrounding your own social media presence is important, we’d like to focus on a different use of social media for now. Let’s talk about all the ways you, as a prospective student, can utilize your social media accounts to your benefit throughout the college search process. Each platform offers a slightly different view into a campus community. Learn how to maximize your presence and time on each one!
Use Instagram to find curated photography of campus, current student, faculty, and alumni bios, and event reminders. While Instagram does not always feel authentic, it’s a great place to start your research to get a feel for campus life, especially in a virtual environment. Many current students interact and engage with their university’s Instagram account, so it’s also a great place to *reach for your popcorn* and read the comments. You will be able to get a better sense of how students and alumni feel about various topics from administration, campus politics, policies, and student life.
Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to check out the IG stories and highlights for announcements, student features, campus news, and reminders about events. Many colleges host current student takeovers through IG stories. While student takeovers aren’t completely free of guidelines, they give you a much less polished perspective of what campus is really like. Current students will also respond back to your DMs during a takeover if you have questions about something in particular.
If you want to read all the articles about a college or university’s rankings, accolades, announcements, or features in the news, Facebook is the place to go. You can usually find several departmental pages for the university as well. The university pages will give you the macro perspective, but department pages will give you a micro perspective on a particular topic. Follow Undergraduate Admission accounts (shameless plug) to be reminded about deadlines, how to apply, and events specifically for prospective students. This tip is generally true across all platforms. If there happens to be an academic department page that you’re interested in, join it to find links to professors’ research or announcements for current students. Many schools will also create “Class of” groups for each class after you’ve been admitted.
If you want to get the tea on the latest university news, consider Twitter your source. While you have to take anything you read on Twitter with a grain of salt (hello fake news), you should be able to again see how the campus community interacts with each other. Check out posts by the university and how followers respond. You can easily find current student Twitter accounts, professor accounts, and possibly some departmental accounts. Twitter tends to be where some lively conversations take place, so don’t be surprised if all you read isn’t rainbows and butterflies. Keep in mind that every institution out there will most likely have some controversial topics brought up via Twitter, and you’ll have students on both sides.
You’re probably already on YouTube watching a gamer build cities in Minecraft in less than 24 hours or an up-and-coming YouTube singer release their latest mash-up, but did you know that many universities have TONS of video content just waiting to be watched by prospective students like you? While the content on most university channels will be pretty polished and purposefully placed with all the right camera angles, it’s still worth sifting through to learn more about an institution. With the current pandemic, many schools are posting their virtual tours, information sessions, and student panels on YouTube. You can, of course, search for organic content from current students as well--some students create vlogs about campus life and will engage with you in the comments if you have questions.
Many universities who used Snapchat heavily in the past have shifted their attention to other platforms. Some colleges still have accounts that post content intermittently, but you might have better luck using this platform to ask questions via DM. It’s a great way to get your own personal one-on-one Q&A session. Don’t be offended if your DM doesn’t receive a response right away--you’re not being ghosted. It’s likely that more time is being spent managing other social media channels.
The latest widely-adopted craze in social media has been TikTok. Higher education tends to be slow at adopting new trends, but more and more schools are creating their own TikTok accounts to post videos of their students doing the latest challenge or dance routine. While you aimlessly scroll through videos on TikTok every night, it wouldn’t hurt to look up a couple university accounts. If you’re feeling adventurous, use the hashtag feature to type in the school name and find some current student content. While the videos are sure to be entertaining, remember that they were created for just that reason--to be entertaining. You can’t take everything for face value on TikTok either.
While you don’t have to actually “like” or “follow” a university on any of these platforms, many schools do track their engagement levels for various types of content. If you find something particularly helpful, give a little love by liking or commenting. It’ll help social media content curators continue to share things that their audiences want to see.
So, there you have it--tangible ways to enhance your college search virtually through social media. Next time you open an app to scroll aimlessly for an hour or two, follow us and let your parents know that you’ve been working hard on your college research.