10 Tips For Using Social Media In Your College Search
Social media isn’t a one-way street. Colleges can learn about you, but you can learn about and interact with them, too.
So where do you begin? From finding colleges’ social media pages to boosting your own social media presence, we’ve got 10 tips to help you maximize social media tools in your college search.
1. Look for Links and Logos
Not sure where to find a college’s social media pages? Look no further than its website.
Colleges typically have links to the social media they use at the top or bottom corners of their websites. If you don’t see them at first, just keep scrolling—some sites list links to social media by name, while others just have the social media logos, which link to their accounts.
Alternately, Google the college name plus the social media platform you’re interested in, such as University of Texas at Dallas Twitter.
2. Learn from LinkedIn
LinkedIn is best known as a professional networking tool for people looking for internships during school or jobs after graduating from college. But within the past few years, this platform added university pages where you can learn information about where a college’s students go once they graduate, as well as basic information about the school and skills graduates have.
For example, Iowa State University’s LinkedIn page displays career insights for more than 143,000 alumni. It shows that top employers of Iowa State graduates include companies such as Wells Fargo, John Deere, Principal Financial Group, Nationwide Insurance, Boeing and IBM. It also shows top career fields for graduates are engineering, education, operations, business development and sales. In addition, the most popular majors listed are mechanical engineering, business administration and management, electrical engineering, computer science and marketing. Among the graduates’ top skills are leadership, customer service, management and public speaking.
To find a college on LinkedIn, Google the college name and the term LinkedIn, such as Iowa State University LinkedIn. Alternately, sign up for a free LinkedIn account, and enter the school name in the search box. On the results page, click the Schools tab.
3. Get on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook
These four platforms are the most common places you’ll find colleges on social media. Schools like to use these platforms to share photos of day-to-day campus activities and big events, as well as information about upcoming admissions and scholarship deadlines.
Social media also is becoming increasingly popular for connecting directly with students—even providing details that inform admissions decisions. For example, in 2016 the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay began telling prospective students their admission decision first via Snapchat, followed by an email notification and then an official acceptance packet.
“I strongly recommend using Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook,” says Courtney Sola, first-year admissions coordinator at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW). “Instagram and Snapchat are visual platforms that are great for high school freshmen and sophomores who are just beginning the college search process. Both platforms allow students to start exploring college campuses and what they have to offer. As students are transitioning into their junior and senior years and start to hone in on universities, I recommend following a university’s Facebook page to get more in-depth information.”
4. Search YouTube
YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine (only Google is bigger). Search this site for a specific college name. You’ll find both official and unofficial videos here and sometimes even videos of students’ projects, commencement addresses, new-student orientation and admissions presentations, holiday greetings, or even class lectures.
5. Share, Like, Tweet, Snap
After you find colleges on social media, start interacting with them. Like their Facebook page. Follow them on Twitter or Instagram. Like or share their posts or tweets. Retweet or regram a post. Comment on posts.
“We encourage our [campus] visitors to follow all our social media platforms, take pictures around campus and post them using our two hashtags: #FutureSeahawks and #TransferToTeal,” Sola says.
6. Check Back Often
Whichever social media you use, check it often to stay up to date. Colleges update their feeds daily with details about important admissions deadlines and events.
“We also post our [admissions counselors’] travel schedules, which includes visits to fairs, high schools and community colleges, to allow prospective students to be able to connect with our representatives on a more personal level,” Sola says.
7. Brag a Little
Put positive information about yourself on social media. “When it comes to posting on social media, students should strive to put their best foot forward,” Sola says. “Think of it as a virtual résumé. Our advice is to post parts of your life that you are most proud of. This could include academic or athletic achievements or community and leadership opportunities.”
8. Use Hashtags
If you post, tweet or snap about a college, use the college name or one of the college’s suggested hashtags to tag your posts. This can help you demonstrate your interest in a college and your message may pop up when they review the college’s mentions and engagement on social media.
“UNCW does not search for, nor follow, prospective students on any of our social media platforms,” Sola says. “However, we do love to see when students tag us in their posts. Our Office of Admissions has a live web feed that runs continuously, showing all posts where students have mentioned UNCW or used our hashtags.”
9. Think Critically
Social media is much more instant and a little less filtered than official college websites. As you’re considering colleges, take a good, critical look at their social media. What exactly are they posting? How does that compare with what you’ve seen in their college brochures, on their website and on a campus tour?
Often, social media helps you get a sneak peek at what attending the college will really be like. At Clemson University (SC), for example, drones fly over campus to show prospective students different views they may not see otherwise. You also can see interviews with current students and a weekly 60-second roundup of what happened that week on campus.
“Students can get a strong sense what it is like here [at Clemson], what they can do here, the level of engagement our students have with social issues, [undergraduate] research … and their world beyond Clemson,” says Robert Bennett, senior associate director of admissions.
10. Think First
As awesome as social media is, it’s easy to post something now that you may regret later.
“Remember that once it’s on the internet, it’s there forever,” Bennett says.
If you have items on your social media account you’re not proud of—or that you wouldn’t want your grandma to see—start cleaning it up. You don’t need to hire an expensive reputation management company to do this. Start by deleting old posts or photos that are embarrassing, inappropriate or use offensive language. Untag yourself from anything you don’t want admissions officials to see. Update your privacy settings as necessary.
“My advice before posting anything on social media: Think twice before posting once,” Bennett says.
Dana McCullough is a freelance writer based in Greendale, Wisconsin.