Ten, even five years ago, narrowing down university choices meant panic ordering a thick brochure from 17 different institutions, making for an unrealistic reading list but a perfect makeshift coffee table during A Level revision. It meant train trips to new cities, sixth form college coach trips to tour campuses and lots and lots of free pens, as universities tried to woo prospective teens into their folds. We’re not suggesting these rituals are ridded altogether, but they are all secondary to the crucial first place a teenager is likely to begin their research: their phone.
16-24 year olds are the largest proportion of social media users next to any older age demographic. Therefore it follows that universities should be doing everything in their power on these platforms to connect with young people who may be interested in studying with them.
The International Student Survey 2017 found social media to hold a growing influence on university choice, in particular for prospective international students who, often unable to visit in person, can instead engage with current students from afar. It found that last year, 83% of students used social media to research a university before deciding whether or not to inquire further. This increased from just 19% between 2016 and 2017. It’s therefore crucial to ensure your institution’s social channels are active and paint an attractive picture.
So, who is doing what?
Two initiatives that particularly caught our eye are the School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies at the University of Nottingham who run a Q&A session on Twitter under the hashtag #AskUoNCFM to answer any questions. It then even produces a transcript of the questions for those who missed it or are not on Twitter.
We also really like Leeds' University of Instagram stories to showcase the university in the midst of each season.
Of course, once a student has accepted a place at university, social media will continue to shape their experience before they’ve even set foot on campus. From connecting to neighbours-to-be on a halls corridor to scouring the Facebook pages of societies to join or Fresher’s nights out. University social media managers have never been so in demand...and so busy.