Schools reach out to prospective students via Facebook

Colleges and unversities use social media such as Facebook to recruit students.
Colleges and universities increasingly are using social media, including Facebook, to recruit students.

Colleges and universities are becoming increasingly proactive in using social media to reach prospective students, acknowledging that today’s teenagers are very active online.

A Maguire Associates survey of U.S. public and private institutions offering four-year undergraduate degrees found that senior enrollment officers are incorporating the internet into undergraduate recruitment and communication. The survey found that 77 percent of senior enrollment officers have begun to use social networking sites in the face of the economic downturn and continued digital innovation.

Brian Shulman, dean of the School of Health and Medical Sciences at Seton Hall University, said combining social media and public relations efforts has improved the school’s image exponentially in one year.

“The School of Health and Medical Sciences has been advancing the branding and reputation of our graduate education degree programs in the health sciences and post-medical school residency and fellowships programs we offer,” he said. “Our application pool for fall 2010 alone has increased over 55 percent from last year which, in part, is due to efforts focused on media relations and social networking opportunities.”

Using social networking for recruitment is gaining popularity partially because it is sometimes easier to reach people through Facebook than through eMail or by phone, said Stephanie Leidolph, master admissions representative at Bryant and Stratton College Online.

“If I need to remind a prospective student to submit something to complete their application, sometimes it’s hard to get students on the phone, but everyone’s on Facebook,” she said.

Leidolph said students initially were hesitant to engage with her through Facebook but eventually warmed to the idea.

“At first, students were taken aback, because it was their personal space … but all of the feedback I’ve gotten has been positive,” she said. “Plus, it’s another area where students can talk outside the classroom.”

Universities also are using social networking to laud students who apply or gain admission to schools. In addition to having a presence on social networking sites, Messiah College’s admissions office plans to launch a new feature through the school’s official Facebook page.

“Starting [early July], when a student applies online we’re going to include Facebook in the process. Upon completion, they will be given an option to post that they’ve just applied to Messiah College to their page. And there will also be an option to refer their friends to our school,” said John Chopka, vice president of enrollment management.

He said this is a more proactive way to get exposure to prospective students than just having a page that students must seek out.

But social media are not replacing more traditional recruitment strategies such as college fairs and phone, eMail, and mail campaigns, said Karli Grant, market manager for Campus Management’s CampusVue ecosystem. Grant also is a former dean of admissions and financial aid.

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