How college websites influence students’ web experience

Both prospective and current college students admit their experiences on college websites are hugely influential.

How are today’s students researching higher-education institutions? The two dominant audiences for college websites are prospective students—defined as high school juniors and seniors—and current college students who are searching for support during their experience. A recent Ektron infograph offers insight into the different ways these two student groups locate and are influenced by college information.

Currently, there are 4,495 degree-granting institutions in the United States, and research estimates that 21.6 million students plan to attend college this fall.

Differences aside, both current and prospective college students strongly agree on one thing: They are heavily influenced by web experiences. Sixty-five percent of prospective students said that a bad web experience hurts their opinion of a school, and 63 percent of current students said their opinion of a school improved when they connected to it through technology.

According to research, college websites are one of the most influential resources for prospective students, second only to a campus tour; friends and family and guidance counselors ranked as the third and fourth most influential resources. Sixty-eight percent of prospective students said they would open an eMail from an unknown college.

(Next page: How social media influences prospective and current college students)

Prospective students research colleges mostly through search engines, eMail, and College Board’s website.  Fifty-five percent of students are searching for information on a college’s academics and programs of studies, while 23 percent of students are looking into tuition information. Thirteen percent of students are exploring admissions and application information, and eight percent are looking into campus tour and student life information.

Similar to current students, prospective students are constantly connected through technology, and 73 percent surveyed said they have visited a higher-education website on their mobile devices. Seventy-five percent said they would be open to communicating with a university representative via webcam.

As for current students, 90 percent said that they have accessed college websites on two or more devices, and perhaps unsurprisingly, 38 percent said they couldn’t go more than 10 minutes without checking their laptop, smart phone, tablet, or eReader.

Despite 96 percent of current students admitting to using Facebook, only 27 percent said they had connected with their university’s social media pages. Only 10 percent of current students use LinkedIn, compared to 14 percent who use Twitter and 17 percent who use Pinterest.

Eighty-eight percent of college students said it is easier to navigate Google than their college’s website, a troubling statistic that administrators could benefit from acknowledging. Seventy-three percent of students travel to their college’s website in pursuit of student portals, while 18 percent are searching for campus calendars. Twelve percent of students are researching news and events, and 15 percent are looking into post-grad career information.

Check out the full infograph here:

Follow Assistant Editor Sarah Langmead on Twitter @eCN_Sarah.

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