Technology + College Admissions
Thanks to technology, it’s never been easier to find information on colleges. New tech and digital tools help you do everything: compare colleges, virtually visit them, get questions answered and upload videos. With the admissions superhighway moving so fast, we don’t want you to get left behind. We asked admissions officers at colleges nationwide which tools they use, which ones you should check out during your college search and where they see the future of admissions going regarding technology use.
What colleges are using
From application platforms and online “lockers” to social media live sessions and podcasts, colleges and universities are working to stay on top of the latest technology to make the application process faster, easier and more interactive.
“Technology is now being used to show aspects of a student that go beyond the traditional factors of standardized test scores and transcripts,” explains Kate Brittain, director of recruitment & enrollment for Rutgers University (NJ). “Companies like ZeeMee exist to provide a more complete picture of the student, which is changing how and what is viewed in the application process. For instance, a student can upload a series of short videos to share their story, which allows for a creativity and authenticity never before used in the admissions process. Various application platforms also have started incorporating a similar technological approach. The Coalition platform [coalitionforcollegeaccess.org] allows students to upload documents, photos or videos into what is called a ‘locker’ that a student can opt to then share with an admissions office. The platform also provides a collaboration space which enables students to connect digitally with counselors, advisers and other trusted adults to solicit opinions and feedback.”
The demand for updates in technology usage in the admissions process is largely being driven by students, not schools. As Taniesha Young, first year admissions coordinator with University of North Carolina Wilmington, points out, “The application process changes and evolves each year and with each college. It is important for colleges to think outside the box, as fewer students frequently check their emails.”
“Students will use college websites to research programs and general information about the institution and general admission information, [but] more technology will [be needed] to maintain students’ interest and help them answer more specific questions,” says Eva Blanco Masias, dean of undergraduate admission at Santa Clara University (CA). “To support this increasing demand for instant information and services, colleges are using a variety of tools such as social media live sessions, chats, student-written blogs, virtual tours, digital maps, podcasts and video to deliver relevant and digestible information that both informs and engages. Text messaging has also more recently become an acceptable form of communication with applicants. While colleges are not using it as a major mode of communication, it is proving useful in providing quick reminders about approaching deadlines and missing application items.”
What students are using
So, what apps and other types of technology are students from around the globe already using when it comes to college applications?
“Students should begin to follow Instagram and Snapchat because these platforms are best to provide a visual experience of the campus,” says Young. “These apps can be very beneficial for those who cannot travel to the campus for an official in-person tour.”
At Santa Clara University, the school has integrated YouVisit and Guidebook into its admission services. “They have served us and our students well because they allow students from all over the world to get to know us better,” says Blanco Masias. “We offer YouVisit virtual tours online as an alternative to the in-person campus visit. Using interactive maps, students can roam the campus at their leisure, including walks inside buildings and classrooms. The panorama views and 360-degree media offer accurate depiction of our campus viewable across desktops and mobile devices.”
Santa Clara University also uses the app Guidebook, which the school uses as its basis for its self-guided tours. “Guidebook offers families an alternative to our fixed schedule student-led tours, allowing campus visitors to tour at times that work best for them. The tour is recorded by SCU students for students, so it’s consistent with our in-person tours. Self-guided tours are also offered in multiple languages for our Spanish and Mandarin-speaking families, and we hope to add more languages in the future.”
Being social-media savvy
Although students may worry that their social media posts could work against them, most admissions officials agree that when done properly, social media can also work in your favor.
“Social media can be a powerful tool for gaining information and communicating,” says Blanco Masias. “By connecting with communities and individuals on campus via their social media feeds, students can learn a lot about a campus and/or programs—and in an interactive way. Once a student enrolls, social media enables community building and connection with future classmates. Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are still the primary social media platforms, but my guess is that others will sprout, like Kickwheel, a mobile app creating private social networks for colleges and universities.”
“Students should follow any and all social media accounts for any college that they want to apply to [in order to] help them see student perspectives and campus life,” says Young. “Our society has become a ‘viral’ community, and it is important that students understand that what they put online can be found and seen by admissions counselors. Social media can be a powerful tool to gain access to information, positive or negative.”
Brittain agrees. “Social media is a great way to keep in touch with friends and loved ones, but it also now means that very few moments are private. Some colleges will view a student’s social media account; others won’t. Therefore, as a rule of thumb, students should be mindful of how they present themselves. Social media, however, can be very helpful in getting application tips and information on special events from a college, so I do recommend students follow their top college choices.”
Technology’s role in the future of college admissions
Will technology continue to change the admissions process? Most likely.
“Technology allows for the college to provide information to a student that is more customized and conversely allows a student to reveal themselves in a more personal and authentic way,” says Brittain. “Technology has also allowed for information to be more accessible, whether that be through websites but also apps, Skype, Instant Chat and many other mechanisms now being used to connect with and share information with students not just nationally, but globally.”
So what’s one of the biggest changes students can expect over the next few years?
“As we continue to advance in the technology field, I believe that most schools will become completely paperless to help maximize efforts for reading and processing applications,” says Young.
Now that’s something to look forward to!