The Social Side of College Admissions

Online Community Building - Recording of our May 29 Webinar

June 2, 2014

Couldn't make our webinar "Moving from Broadcasting to Community Building"? No worries, we recorded the May 29 version.

Learn how to:

  • Be a Conversation Starter, not just a Broadcaster
  • Engage your audience on Social Media
  • Encourage participation and interaction among your followers

Watch the Recording

Learn More about Varsity Outreach

If you want to learn more about how Varsity Outreach helps colleges and universities create private communities for their future students, current students, and alumni, we encourage you to watch our short product video or request a demo.

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Free Webinar: Moving from Broadcasting to Community Building

May 8, 2014

Summer time is just around the corner. The May 1 deposit deadline has come and gone. The academic year is winding down. And college graduation ceremonies are happening across the country.

Many of you are looking ahead to next year and starting to map out your strategies. We've got a great opportunity for you!

Join us for a free webinar on online community building in higher ed, entitled Moving from Broadcasting to Community Building.

You'll learn how to:

  • Be a Conversation Starter, not just a Broadcaster
  • Better engage your audience on Social Media
  • Encourage greater participation and interaction among your fans and followers

You'll have two opportunities to catch this live webinar:

  • Wednesday, May 21 at 2pm ET
  • Thursday, May 29 at 1pm ET
Reserve Your Spot

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To Post or Not to Post, That is the Question

April 16, 2014

A surprisingly common refrain we hear from admissions offices is "We take a hands-off approach when it comes to social media". We most often hear it in reference to Facebook Class of 20XX Groups.

The Logic of the Hands-Off Approach

The logic of the Hands-Off Approach goes something like this:

  1. We want the Facebook Group to be a place where admitted students can meet and get to know each other.
  2. We'll listen to the conversation and intervene when absolutely necessary (e.g., misinformation).
  3. If we post, we might stifle conversation or make them feel like we're monitoring the conversation (which we are, anyway).
  4. Therefore, we take a hands-off approach and rarely post in the Facebook Group.

Ok, that actually makes some sense.

Imagine being a teenager again. If you were talking with your friends, the conversation would probably change or stop when your parents entered the room, right? You might even groan "Mom, will you leave us alone?"

Don't Be the Parent

However, I believe you're missing a huge opportunity if you take the Hands-Off Approach. You don't have to be the parent crashing the party in this story.

If all you post is official announcements or correct misinformation, then you may well be viewed as the "parent" of the Facebook Group.

But what if you were the matchmaker or the icebreaker instead? What if you imagined the Facebook Group as a party you were throwing for admitted students, and you made it your goal to introduce people to each other. I'll come back to this in a second.

This Isn't Your First Rodeo

You have an ace up your sleeve and may not fully realize it. You've seen this story unfold many times before. Each year, you get to see a new crop of prospective and admitted students go through the admissions process. For them, it's completely new, often daunting and exciting at the same time. For you, it's business as usual.

You have the benefit of experience. So take advantage of it!

Ok, you may not know which TV shows are big among this year's incoming class (Seinfeld may seem like a timeless classic to you and mean nothing to them) or what music they listen to (Pearl Jam still tops your favorites list), but you do probably know some of the things that are important to them.

Can incoming freshmen pick their roommates or state their preferences on residence halls? If so, then I'm guessing you see tons of posts in your Facebook Group that look something like this every year "I'm still looking for a roommate. Message me if you're interested."

You've probably noticed every year that admits from nearby high schools or international students from the same country often bond over these connections, right?

Be the Matchmaker

You may not be able to predict all the conversations that will happen, but you can definitely predict a few that will be popular.

Why wait for some brave admit to start the conversation? You can have it ready for them as soon as they start joining the Facebook Group. Throw up a "Where is everyone from?" post. Or maybe even focus a little more with "Any international students in this group yet? What country are you coming from?"

You can even make the conversations better by providing some structure. Take the roommate example I gave before. How helpful is it to another admit looking for a roommate if all I say is "Still looking for a roommate, hit me up"? They don't know anything about me... except what I look like from my profile picture. So what are they basing their decision to message me on? Not a whole lot.

Now, what if you shared a post like this:

Still looking for a roommate? Answer the following questions:
Are you a morning or night person?
Are you clean or messy?
Which residence hall do you prefer?
Are you looking for a social room or a quiet room?
What's one fun fact about you?

Now, if I'm an admit looking for a roommate, I'll have some useful information to go off of.

Notice a common thread in these two examples? They're both questions. They encourage participation. You're not stifling conversations. You're creating jumping-off points for conversations. You're encouraging introductions. If this were a party, you'd move on once the conversation got going and do it all over again with a new audience.

Data from Our White Paper

In our White Paper Facebook and Admissions, we actually asked admissions professionals how they viewed their role. Guess who was most satisfied with Facebook as a tool to yield admits... the people that viewed themselves as Conversation Starters. The least satisfied... the Observers and the Broadcasters.

So instead of a Hands-Off Approach, it might be worth getting your hands a bit dirty. Use your knowledge and experience to help them connect with each other and forge new friendships.

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Keep 'Em Coming Back: Most Engaging College Facebook Pages of 2013

February 13, 2014

This is the final post in our 4-part series A Look Back at 2013.

Each year, we like to highlight those colleges and universities that have been most successful at consistently engaging their fan base on Facebook. Did your institution make the cut? To come up with our Top 10 lists, we average the engagement scores for every post made by each Facebook Page in our directory during 2013.

A few notes about these rankings:

  • Our only requirement for inclusion in the Top 10 lists was that the institution posted at least 12 times this past year on their Facebook Page. We considered this a baseline for a Facebook Page to be considered active for 2013.
  • To help you make more apples-to-apples comparisons, we group each Facebook Page into a size category based on its fan count at the end of 2013.

To help provide an anchor, the average engagement score for the 301,897 posts we analyzed was 4.69.

Size Categories

XX Large (75,000+ Facebook fans)

Rank SchoolEngagement Score
1Texas A&M University
(College Station, TX)
350 posts
2Indiana University
(Bloomington, IN)
276 posts
3North Carolina State University
(Raleigh, NC)
396 posts
4Oregon State University
(Corvallis, OR)
130 posts
5University of Michigan
(Ann Arbor, MI)
344 posts
6Colorado State University
(Fort Collins, CO)
623 posts
7The University of Oklahoma
(Norman, OK)
618 posts
8Auburn University
(Auburn, AL)
405 posts
9The University of Arizona
(Tucson, AZ)
1120 posts
10Liberty University
(Lynchburg, VA)
224 posts

X Large (20,000-74,999 Facebook fans)

Rank SchoolEngagement Score
1Siena College
(Loudonville, NY)
55 posts
2University of Mississippi ~ Ole Miss
(Oxford, MS)
244 posts
3University of Nevada, Reno
(Reno, NV)
55 posts
4Tarleton State University
(Stephenville, TX)
179 posts
5Marquette University
(Milwaukee, WI)
433 posts
6Northern Arizona University Alumni Relations
(Flagstaff, AZ)
412 posts
7Western Washington University
(Bellingham, WA)
336 posts
8Grand Valley State University
(Allendale, MI)
161 posts
9Saint Louis University
(St. Louis, MO)
197 posts
10Florida State University
(Tallahassee, FL)
400 posts

Large (10,000-19,999 Facebook fans)

Rank SchoolEngagement Score
1Regis University
(Denver, CO)
207 posts
2Taylor University
(Upland, IN)
117 posts
3Berry College
(Mount Berry, GA)
382 posts
4Wichita State University
(Wichita, KS)
538 posts
5Prairie View A&M University
(Prairie View, TX)
438 posts
6University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
(Milwaukee, WI)
132 posts
7Michigan Technological University
(Houghton, MI)
262 posts
8University of Portland
(Portland, OR)
385 posts
9Smith College
(Northampton, MA)
423 posts
10Saint Joseph's University
(Philadelphia, PA)
221 posts

Medium (5,000-9,999 Facebook fans)

Rank SchoolEngagement Score
1Buena Vista University
(Storm Lake, IA)
47 posts
2University of the South
(Sewanee, TN)
469 posts
3Tuskegee University
(Tuskegee, AL)
327 posts
4Alma College
(Alma, MI)
102 posts
5Kenyon College
(Gambier, OH)
101 posts
6College of Wooster
(Wooster, OH)
71 posts
7Susquehanna University
(Selinsgrove, PA)
172 posts
8Covenant College
(Lookout Mountain, GA)
100 posts
9Tennessee State University
(Nashville, TN)
310 posts
10Providence College
(Providence, RI)
311 posts

Small (<5,000 Facebook fans)

Rank SchoolEngagement Score
1Saint Joseph's College
(Rensselaer, IN)
228 posts
2Hesston College
(Hesston, KS)
85 posts
3The Citadel Alumni Association
(Charleston, SC)
133 posts
4University of La Verne
(La Verne, CA)
123 posts
5Lasell College
(Newton, MA)
108 posts
6Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC)
(Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, IN)
520 posts
7Shaw University
(Raleigh, NC)
75 posts
8Indiana University Kokomo Admissions Office
(Kokomo, IN)
196 posts
9Eberhardt School of Business
(Stockton, CA)
153 posts
10Neumont University
(Salt Lake City, UT)
253 posts

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