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How To Use Social Media To Optimize Your College Search

I remember touring prospective colleges in the early 2000s with my mother. I had a handwritten note of questions (this was before iPhone notes apps, obviously) that I was burning to ask students around campus. I knew the school stats: majors offered, cost, acceptance rate, school size, teacher-to-student ratio, etc. That information was easy to find on the school website or (yes, even then). What I could NOT find were the intangibles that set one school apart from the others. I wanted the “411” I wanted to know what was, as I now refer to as an independent education consultant, “the vibe” of the school. I found that when student representatives took us on tours, they were OBVIOUSLY trained to give specific information and the most polished versions of that information. I was too shy to go up to random students to ask the questions I wanted to know about the social scene, the dorms, and the unspoken rules. I had so many questions, questions that remained largely unanswered until I attended the school myself.

Here are some ideas for using social media to your benefit when searching for a potential college.

Connecting with prospective and current students

Many social media platforms like Facebook have groups for prospective and current students. This is a great way to see future events on campus, to see what is happening live on campus now, and to ask and/or see responses to others' questions about the school. This would be a fantastic way to connect with other prospective students to make real-life connections before physically stepping foot on campus. Wouldn’t it be nice to make a friend at a school before you even show up?

Connect with Alumni

Perhaps you want to see what others who graduated from your intended school are doing with their degrees and time post-graduation. Look to social media platforms like Linkedin to connect with alumni and view their professional resumes. This will also give you insight into post-graduate degrees and where some alumni choose to go for graduate school.

Check out your major!

A school may offer your major, but that does not necessarily mean the program is right for you. Scoping out social media accounts on platforms like Instagram is a great way to see the program's vitality in real-time. For example, if you are a fine arts major and want to see a thriving community specific to your interests, the daily posts and content will offer you great insight to know if it will fulfill your expectations.

Gathering Reviews and Testimonials

While Yelp reviews for colleges would not be my go-to place for recommendations (though they can be super helpful for restaurants in the area!) I recommend using other social media platforms to check out reviews about your prospective school. Consider checking out Quora for reviews and testimonials and asking specific questions to a range of people interested in the same topics. For example, I just did a sample search for “Monmouth University,” some of the questions I saw were, “What are the freshmen dorms like at Monmouth University?” The question had three detailed responses from current students.

Day in the Life of…

Well, this is my new obsession! On Tiktok and other social media platforms with short video clips, a popular trend is the “Day in the Life of A….Student.” For example, if you are interested in attending NYU, you can search “A Day in the Life of an NYU Student” or, even more specifically, “A Day in the Life of a theater major at NYU.” I love these TikToks and recommend my clients to check them out to get an authentic “vibe” for student life. From these shorts, prospective students can get a glimpse of schedules, the dorms, the cafeteria, classrooms, and study groups; the information is limitless and endless.

Disclaimer for social media; The old saying goes, “Don’t believe everything you read,” and while that sentiment probably originated in print media, the same goes for social media. Take the information you obtain from social media with a grain of salt, as many people are solely content creators. They create posts solely for followers and brand deals. That being said, access to the behind-the-scenes information about a potential school is a powerful tool to add to your decision-making arsenal to find your “fit.” However, none of this information replaces working with a knowledgeable IEC who can bring up-to-date and accurate information right to you.

Rebecca Stone

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