We all know real life is different from what it looks like on Facebook or Twitter. But, when it comes to colleges and social media, you can gain a great deal of insight about an institution—and what it might be like to be a student there—by spending some time clicking through their social media accounts. Take your list of top schools and see what platforms they have accounts on, then log on and consider these seven things a college’s social media can tell you:
What kinds of activities they have on campus. You might see flyers for upcoming events, pictures from events that just happened, and hashtags for whatever is trending—literally and figuratively—on campus. Are student groups and offices on campus organizing events and workshops that you’d want to attend?
What milestone events are like on campus. If you are trying to picture move-in day, Family Weekend, Halloween, the holiday season, or whether the campus is a cozy place to hunker down during the cold weather months of the early spring semester… the photos they post on social media will give you a fly-on-the-wall experience.
Level of school spirit. You know college students are glued to their phones, so how much do students and alumni engage with their college on social media? Do you have a sense that students are excited about their campus and are big on participating—online and off-line?
What kind of students attend this school. Are the students who are being retweeted from the college’s official Twitter stream, or posing for photos, or posting to the college’s Facebook page seem like people you’d want to be friends with or could relate to? Also find out if there are Facebook groups for each class; this would be a good way to connect with other incoming students and “meet” them before you even get there.
Campus interest in school sports. If the college’s social platforms are filled with score updates, news about sports games or photos of students decked out in school colors, chances are sports are big and students there fully support their teams.
Alumni involvement. Frequently colleges will have social media accounts just for staying connected with alumni. Are they active? Does it look like grads have affection for their college experience?
The general “feel” of a campus. You can Google for statistics or ask admissions staff to learn if a college has an impressive retention rate or a good ranking for their business program, but you can get a more personal, qualitative idea of what life is like on any given campus—and, most importantly, whether it feels like the right fit for you—by spending some time exploring a college’s Twitter stream, Facebook feed, Instagram account, etc.