How to Look for Colleges Using Social Media

By John Incantalupo
For StudentAdvisor.com

look for colleges social mediaThis time of year a lot of you soon-to-be high school juniors and seniors might just be getting your feet wet in the college search process. But with so many institutions, how do you cut it down to a reasonable number of schools to visit and apply to? How do you really find colleges that interest you that are worth visiting and applying to?

Sure, there’s a lot to be found out about a school on their website, but how about using Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare?  I know, you’re suspicious. But, you can find out so much more than the jargon on the admissions pages!

How do you know what the food is like in the campus cafeterias?  What about living conditions?  Is it a serious school, a party school – or somewhere in between?  Can I trust that what the gigantic tome in front of me is giving an accurate description of the college?  Where can I turn to for an unbiased view?

Here’s how to use social media to get the answers to your questions about a school:

Learn More About Life at a College via Facebook

According to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2010 Survey of College Admissions Officers, 82% of Colleges use Facebook as a recruitment tool for prospective students – and THAT was in 2010!

Colleges which you have an interest in are likely to have a Facebook Page that you can search for and visit.  Here’s what to do:

1.  Log onto your Facebook account.

2.  At the top of the page you’ll see a rather large search box.
For kicks, simply type in the word “college”.

3.  When the search box drops down, scroll all the way to the
bottom and click on “see more results for college”.

It’s likely that most of the colleges you’re interested in have a presence of some sort on Facebook.  Some have nicely designed Facebook Fan Pages. Other pages are links to the Wikipedia site for the college.   Some colleges have groups, others try to solicit you to become their “friends”.

Use caution when “friending” college admissions officers!  If you “friend” a college admissions officer on Facebook, they will have access to much of your private information.

On the other hand, “Liking” a Facebook Fan Page is not the same as “friending” a college admissions officer.  By “liking” the page, you will receive updates from that page in your Facebook newfseed.

If you’d like to find out more about privacy setting on Facebook, check out the article 5 Steps to Protect Your Facebook Profile During College Applications.

Search for School News on Twitter

Twitter turns out to be the ultimate search tool that almost no one knows about!  There are two very useful ways to search Twitter.

First, search.twitter.com, with its advanced search features is for those that like to customize their searches.  Customize by geographic area, date, and even positive or negative attributes!  Click on the link above, and then on “advanced search” to access these advanced features.

Then there’s Topsy which gives a more polished return of info – easier to read, easier to understand.  Topsy can be customized as well.  In fact, Topsy’s initial search results are spread across a spectrum of social media sites and the web.   Once an initial search is conducted, click across the top of the Topsy page to get a variety of different search areas which include tweets, photos, videos and experts (which are determined by the number of social media mentions).

Which Search Terms to Use?

OK – we know what you’re asking!  What do I search for?

Try the following generic searches: college, #college, #admissions, admissions, student  life, campus food, campus activity…

Try the following if you’re interested in specific school:  Tufts, #Tufts, Boston University, Harvard, Cornell…you get the picture!

Even combine the search terms: campus food Tufts, university life Cornell…

By the way, the “#” symbol and the text that follows it is called a hashtag.  Hashtags are used on Twitter by users to make tweets more searchable.  Folks that use hashtags are generally more Twitter-savvy and often include information in their tweets that is actionable, such as including links and photos/videos that are attached to their tweets.

look for colleges with social mediaFind Campus “hotspots” on Foursquare

Foursquare is a location sharing social media network.  It is most useful as a smartphone or iPad application.  Users “check-in” with their smartphones/iPads/iPods/laptops to actual, real locations and share comments and tips for other users that are checked in with them, or who will check in in the future.  Foursquare uses either GPS (on phones) or wi-fi location to determine the users current whereabouts.

If you have the foursquare app on your smartphone or iPod/iPad (with at least wi-fi) or laptop, you will be able to use it on your college visits.  You can also use it to research the various campus buildings, and local eateries, nightlife, parks, recreational activities, and the list goes on…

When you are checked-in at a location, you can view comments and tips left by other foursquare users.  Some of the comments and tips are very informative, honest and real regarding the overall “feel” of a location.  Try it, you’ll see what I mean!

This is a relatively NEW way of using a social media service in the college search process, but we find it very exciting – and a great tool that you can add to your arsenal – remember, you heard it here first!

The Importance of Registering Social Media Accounts

I understand that there are many of you that are reticent to use social media. You’ve read and seen the news accounts of how unsafe it is, how unregulated it is, how many viruses and spam there are…

…but in this article I’m suggesting you use social media for search purposes – not asking anyone to post anything (yet) – I’ll save that for a future article!   To use social media for search purposes, all you have to do is have an account.  So get those accounts open!

Colleges are interacting with prospective students in the social media space.  They know this is the place where most students are logging in every day.

Be there, and at the very least, you’ll find help in your college search. Learn to further use social media in the college admissions process, and you may increase your chances of getting accepted!

John Incantalupo is co-founder of bragTAG,  the High School Resume on Facebook.  You can check out more of the bragTAG team’s advice on social media and college admissions at the bragTAG College Bound Blog.

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