This past weekend my family came up to see me since I last saw them at the beginning of September. My younger sister, who is in her senior year of high school, is in the same boat that I was just four years ago: deciding where to go to college. During this brief visit, I was able to talk to her more about what her thought process was in choosing which schools to consider and apply to, and the topic of social media came into the conversation a lot.
Even though the dynamics have not changed (like the questions you ask when making your college list – Big or small campus? Home or away? Frats/Sororities or no? Etc.), I think social media is playing an even bigger role compared to four years ago. I mean maybe I lived underneath a rock back then, but I believe social media is playing a bigger part in how high school seniors are making their decisions since their lives seem to revolve around it so much. And colleges are taking advantage of this craze year-round by promoting their campuses and programs, and shoving it down potential students’ throats about open houses and day visits with updates. I mean look at Siena – on its Admissions Twitter page, they wrote just a week ago, “Just a reminder if you are posting #siena2020 photos on @instagram make sure you make it public or we can’t see it and send the surprise!” Notice a few things? Twitter? Check. Instagram? Check. Engagement? Check. Community-like feeling? Check. A unique hashtag? Check. And to top it all off, a mysterious surprise for saying you got accepted into the school? Check. Why wouldn’t you want to attend Siena?! Siena, just like other colleges across the country, is being smart in their marketing and advertising strategies. Paper brochures and flyers go home to Mom & Dad; social media targets and lures the prospective high school students in by engaging with them; and word-of-mouth gets around to the entire family. (And speaking of paper brochures, guess who is taking part in the Siena professional photo shoot on Thursday for upcoming marketing materials? This girl. I know – lucky me!)
For students like my sister who still are not sure as to where to go, there are so many options available to help with that decision: in-person visits to campus, virtual tours, e-mails, paper brochures, websites, reactions from current students and alumni/alumnae, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest), billboards/newspaper ads, bus stop ads, college fairs, etc. And these prospective students scroll through and scour social media to get the “real” reactions of current students before committing to considering and/or choosing a school. At least I saw this with my own eyes over the summer with my sister’s friends. One of her friends went all along the East Coast (from Massachusetts all the way down to Florida) and visited a whole bunch of colleges she was interested in during her summer vacation. And how do I know this? The girl every few hours of every day of her three week trip updated her SnapChat SnapStory with geotag filters that pinpointed what school she was at on that particular day – with the main picture being a campus location photo. I will be honest some of them were cool and eye-catching design-wise, and I am sure kids these days will base their choices on how pretty a campus is or what cool things surround the college (Washington D.C. pops into mind since the girl went crazy with Snaps of all the monuments). But let’s be real – the green and gold Siena dome and banner geotag filter on Snapchat cannot be beat, ha ha.
It is funny how high school guidance counselors always warn the seniors to be conscious of what they put on social media because colleges will be looking with a simple Google search. But the same goes for colleges too – prospective students are checking social media to see how often the platforms are updated, how they interact with students and potential students, and what kind of reputation they get from all the forms of media and communication they see and hear.