“You have to think about the logistics!” – Rhonda Schulz circa Fall 2015.
In the beginning stage of applying for college, my mom had made it her mission to prevent me from applying to a school purely based on enticements from the university’s marketing department. She wanted me to think about the reality of attending a certain university – Would I love or hate the always humid weather? Would a campus of this size require a bike? – rather than getting wrapped in the vague statistics or reputation of a school. Unfortunately, these were all, and still are, extremely difficult questions to answer without directly asking a current student.
Oftentimes, there is an extreme disconnect between how a school presents student life and the reality of being a student. This gap can be solved by presenting genuine, authentic samples of student life by the students themselves.
Many institutions have noticed this gap and are putting effort into closing it. Whether it be through student run blogs or a page on Instagram, a significant number of universities are giving voices to students on how their institution is portrayed. While I appreciate these steps taken, the efforts do not entirely solve the problem because these student-authored snippets are still very polished and not holistically representative of student life at that school. Regarding this problem, schools are missing the point that:
Why I say that students might be willing to present their daily life via a creative medium for free is because they already are. Whether it be via simple videos made with minimum vlogging experience and cheap editing software to show a day at the University of Miami or a fully-functioning YouTube channel dedicated to displaying a casual day at Boston University, regular college students are creating this content. Moreover, they are gaining impressive followings and organically generating tens of thousands of views – simply by presenting a look into college life to mass amounts of prospective students online. And, institutions have ample opportunities to partner with these students. Take Cath in College for example – what started as a deeply personal online blog for a Stanford freshman evolved into a YouTube channel as well as a full-funnel college lifestyle website. With over 4M views and 26,000 subscribers, this online entity sells merchandise at the Stanford University Store, employs high school interns, creates videos with the President of Stanford, and has meet-ups during accepted student days. Displayed in the comments time and time again, legions of high school students are painting this university as their dream school partly due to Cath. I can personally attest to the deeper connection a prospective student can feel because of access to more intimate moments of life at a certain institution. Cath in College and how she presents Stanford drove me to submit and application and nearly made the school my number one choice.
If an academic institution wants to stay at the forefront of properly presenting life at their school in the most positive light, they not only have to continue providing student-generated content but also find new channels to convey this authenticity. Now, prospective students want a less filtered, more representative idea of student life. No university marketing department or admissions office can deliver this idea on their own – these groups must start leveraging the excited and creative students they already have on their campus to present the pure and trustworthy reality of life at the university.
At Converge Consulting, we always strive to explore #NewandNext thinking. In doing so, we are always looking for the next channel prospective students demand information through. Want to hear more about the higher-ed decision process from the student’s POV? Check out my other blog: A Student’s Perspective on How Google College Search Will be Used!