New report aims to help higher ed recruitment and enrollment by highlighting admissions myths based on what admissions professionals believe versus what teens actually do.

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While social media channels are well-used by prospective students, it’s actually legacy platforms like email, and institutional websites, that have the most influence over college decision-making.

That’s just one takeaway from a comprehensive white paper from Gil Rogers, director of marketing and enrollment services at Chegg, and Michael Stoner, president and co-founder of mStoner, Inc., on admissions myths that could be causing institutions to invest in the wrong practices, as well as not reaching as many prospective students as they could.

The report, based on responses from data and surveys of the thousands of students who use Chegg, and 218 responses from admissions professionals in colleges and universities across the country, aims to help college and university admissions reach prospective students in the most effective way possible and boost enrollment.

The problem, say the authors, is that with the proliferation of devices, social media channels and apps, admissions professionals are scrambling to keep up and may too often invest precious time and money on channels and practices that don’t actually resonate with Generation Z (aka teens).

For admissions officers “it’s more important than ever to question assumptions about what teens do and don’t do, prefer and dislike, when it comes to their college search and choice process,” states the report. “…jumping on the hottest new social network just because teens are using it is usually a waste of time (and therefore, money).”

Rogers and Stoner go on to say that though experimentation isn’t bad, understanding what new apps and social media channels actually do for teens who use them will help avoid wasting time that could be better spent managing other, more effective channels.

“Don’t take the hype about new technology at face value, but consider carefully why teens have taken it up and whether or not it’s something that your institution can legitimately use to reach them,” the report emphasizes.

To better break down the report’s findings, the authors have pulled 10 big admissions myths from the data, comparing what student respondents of the surveys say versus what admissions officers polled say. In other words, people often have a limited view of data that mismatches with actual student behavior.

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Myth 1: Prospects hang on an admissions officer’s every word. 71 percent of admissions officers believe that conversations with them are important sources of information for teens before they decide to apply. However, only 37 percent of teens agree. “It’s not that teens totally discount what admissions officers say, but there are other information sources that are much more important to them,” note the authors.

(Next page: Admissions myths 2-6)

Crest of Harvard's Medical School. ThePhotosite / Shutterstock.com

Crest of Harvard’s Medical School. ThePhotosite / Shutterstock.com

Myth 2: The higher your institution’s ranking, the more impressed teens are. Only 16 percent of teens deciding where to apply say a college’s ranking is very important to them. But when they are making the decision about where to enroll, then 77 percent say it’s important. Yet, admissions staff believe that a ranking is more important to teens when they’re researching institutions, not when they’re deciding which to attend.

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Myth 3: Social media is an awesome channel for engaging teens who don’t know your institution. Admissions professionals believe it’s a good way to reach teens initially; yet, only 4 percent of teens say it’s a good way to contact them initially.

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Myth 4: Admissions officers don’t understand how teens use their phones. 87 percent of admissions staff understand that teens visit college websites using a mobile browser, and 81 percent of teens said that they do. Also, 65 percent of teens are open to reading mail from colleges on their phone. However, while nearly half of admissions staff believe teens have downloaded an app from a college, few actually did.

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Myth 5: Search works. Really. Though 73 percent of admissions officers believe that communications from a college a teen hasn’t heard about will have some influence on their decision to apply, only 21 percent of teens say that it has made a difference to them, reveals the report.

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Myth 6: Print is an important source of information about colleges for teens. Prospectives don’t completely ignore print—a brochure or pamphlet are the most effective form of outreach for getting teens to pay attention to an institution they have never heard of or have heard of but not considered, says the report—but more than half of teens said they threw away 50 percent or more of the unsolicited mail they receive. In fact, the paper notes that there’s a hashtag on Instagram and Twitter, #CollegeMail, dedicated to student photos of the mail they receive from institutions.

(Next page: Admissions myths 7-10)

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Myth 7: Facebook is dead to teens. Bolstered by media reports and national surveys saying teen Facebook use has declined, a third of admissions officers also believe this to be true, says the report. Yet, teens do still use Facebook when researching colleges: 67 percent say that it was the most valuable of the social channels they used. That’s because while teens have moved on to other private messaging apps and Instagram to connect with friends, Facebook and email are legacy media for Generation Z, say the authors—they use them for specific purposes, such as communicating with specific people or institutions in their lives. Teens have an email address because their teachers, parents, coaches and colleges will use it to reach them.

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Myth 8: Teens love when you contact them through a social channel. Even though teens use social media, and 72 percent of admissions professionals believe students are open to being contacted through Facebook (71 percent believe through Twitter, and 50 percent through Instagram), it’s usually only if a student contacts first that they’re open to communication.

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Myth 9: Social media over website. 64 percent of admissions officers believe that teens value the college’s official social media account before applying, though only 18 percent of teens find them valuable. However, the college website is highly valued by teens both before and after deciding to apply—and still valued, though not as much, after being accepted, when admissions believe that it’s still important to their admitted students, say the authors. 87 percent of teens find college and university websites “extremely” or “very” useful in their college research, and they also use independent external websites, ranking them lower in value. [Read: “Your .edu site for 2016 looks like this.”]

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Myth 10: Admissions let prospectives slide through the cracks. 61 percent of teens said they expected a response from a college representative within a day of contacting him or her, and admissions is very aware: 97 percent assume teens expect a response within a day or less. [Read: “L.A. admissions use AI to transform dormant leads.”]

“Just because teens use social media, don’t get caught up in a social media channel arms race,” conclude the authors. “The landscape is shifting rapidly, with new channels emerging and a dizzying array of choices for everyone to use. You’re better off focusing on email and personal outreach to admitted students—via the channel of their choice, of course.”

For much more detailed information, as well as charts, data, and methodology, read the full white paper, “Mythbusting Admissions: Where prospects and professional agree—and disagree—on enrollment marketing, messages, and channels.”


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