What type of social media presence do you expect from your college/university?
We recently posed this question to current college students and asked them to explain their reasoning. We thought this topic was especially timely in light of the recent college admission scandals plaguing several of the top American Ivy League universities. While getting admitted into some academic institutions seems to be as much about race, class, money and who your parents are as it does about GPA, we wanted to turn the tables by asking students what they look for in a college or university — specifically in terms of social media.
This was all part of our Scholarship Essay Contest where we awarded one student a $1,000 scholarship prize. Although we could only give away one scholarship, we were thrilled to receive many other thoughtful and well-written submissions that we’d like to share a few of them with you here on the SEO-e blog.
Continue scrolling below to read excerpts from some of the top submissions we received and learn what today’s college students expect from their university’s social media presence. Then, feel free to share your own expectations in the comments section at the bottom.
Essay question: What type of social media presence do you expect from your college/university? Why?
Kristina McGee, California Lutheran University (scholarship winner):
“Amid the panic and grief, what was most reassuring was our college social media. It informed us and gave us truth, advice, and guidance. Even more, in the coming days, our social media was the glue that held us all together, reassured us, and offered resources for care and healing. We learned how the college was there for us, and how we could support loved ones of victims and first responders. And when I say ‘we’ I mean not only students, but also our families, alumni, and the Thousand Oaks community.
California Lutheran probably never expected their social media would, one week in November 2018, serve as an information hub, source of comfort, a unifying force, and support center for so many alums, families, communities, and prospective students.
Beyond the typical functions of social media presence, I now know how critical it can be. And social media, often maligned by some, is now seen by all of us in the California Lutheran community as a lifeline to each other.”
Ashley McLeggan, Morgan State University:
“I expect some type of social media presence on campus; however, the use of social media must not be used to harm someone. It should be used with a purpose; it should have unique posts; students should use it in a mature way. Organizations, clubs, and the admissions office should utilize this technology advancement to accomplish a number of things. Students themselves need to refrain from posting pictures and videos that could potentially harm themselves or someone else in the future.”
Samra Huric, West Chester University:
“As a first year graduate student, I expect my university to use social media to inform incoming students, communicate with students through individual departments, share students’ experiences, and better communicate with students through feedback… I expect my university to use social media to connect with students. More and more students are using social media to ask questions and share feedback. By communicating back through social media, it would show that the school is helpful and responsive…”
Eric Calero, Florida International University:
“Emails to the entire community only go so far, as such, social media is a segue to efficient communication with a more effective reach. A perfect example was recently displayed when FIU published a message to the community regarding the recent government shutdown. Students of the families affected could have been deterred from pursuing their education by having no means to afford classes for the spring semester. FIU acted swiftly by posting on social media that those affected can contact a certain email and the university’s financial aid department will work with students to minimize the negative impact of this issue… I expect engaged university social media accounts where the thoughts, concerns, and sentiments of the community are iterated with the goal of connecting thousands.”
“A university’s social media should be an extension of its community…”
Melissa Lombardo, San Diego State University:
“Personally, I looked towards Instagram to see what types of clubs and programs the college has in order to determine if this college will blend with my personality… The main way I hear about events happening at San Diego State University is through Facebook or Instagram. The more I see this certain event advertised the more likely I am to attend such [an] event. This helps promote job fairs, health weeks, and discounts on supplies.”
Elizabeth James, Southern Illinois University:
“When I first applied to the university I am currently attending, I assumed there would be a Facebook account or even an Instagram account I could connect to. What I wasn’t expecting was the multiple branches of social media Southern Illinois University had. For example, there is a regular Facebook account, but there is also an account to sell and buy textbooks or other school items, which seems incredible useful for students in search of used books and what not… I believe all universities should have more social media accounts based on the idea that the younger generations are more prone to use social media, therefore if a university has accounts it becomes a better way to connect to new students or students on the search for a university.”
Breanna Barker, California Polytechnic State University:
“No matter what club or experience you are doing at Cal Poly, there is some sort of social media site that you can follow and often look for information. Every time you look at these sites you expect a lot of things from them. You expect them to be neat, organized, grammatically correct, entertaining in some respects, regularly posted (up to date), and many other things. For a college in today’s world to be in the aspect of social media, they have to keep a controversial free social media presence in many different platforms.”
Rebecca Kelley, West Chester University:
“I expect my university to update social media with important information, such as closings, that impacts the school and campus. I expect advertising for events and activities occurring on campus and around the community. I expect to see posts from them several times a week, and I expect their stories on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat almost daily with important reminders and, on the days when no crucial information needs relaying, fun and exciting posts about campus life, faculty, and students. In the age of the Internet, social media holds a vital role in the everyday lives of students. We use social media to express ourselves, secure our friendships, set up study times with classmates, and keep up with our lives. I expect my university to remain a part of my life, adapting with the times and in turn enabling me to remain an active part of its life.”
“All social media accounts I follow support and maintain the connection I have to my university. Without them, I would still involve myself in activities and games, but I would not have the daily reminders that I belong to such a great school and diverse community.”
Rebecca Yoo, Pepperdine University:
“I expect Pepperdine to utilize their advantages on social media because they are what instantly attracts potential students to the school, and the university’s goal to gain students… Pepperdine shares content about leadership, mentorship, community, worship, and servanthood because those are values the university chooses to embody and teach. I expect Pepperdine to emphasize these fundamental principles on social media because they highlight meaningful reasons to attend Pepperdine and expose their consumer demographic… Social media for universities should create a presence to showcase both functionality and profitability, while also using it as an opportunity to share its mission and corporate social responsibility.”
Riley Taylor, University of Kansas:
“When it comes to social media, I expect my university’s presence to be positive, encouraging, informing, and active… I expect my university to maintain an active social media presence so that students can stay updated, whether that be about impending weather conditions, job opportunities, or social events… When coming to college, everyone is trying to find where they belong. A university’s social media needs to show that that college is the right fit for the potential student.”
Chayla Cherry, Spelman College:
“In terms of phrasing, it would end up uncomfortable for all parties involved if accounts run by adults utilized ‘trendy’ slang in an attempt to seem relevant. Nobody is asking for the Registrar’s Office to post something about making sure your ‘grades are snatched so you can keep that GPA up, hunty!’ Not only would it show the poster’s age, it would be extremely unprofessional… Knowing your market and pandering to what you think the youth are into are two completely different things, and it’s important not to blur those lines.”
“The best way to get better [at social media] is to have actual students doing the job. Work study exists for a reason, and nobody knows Millennial and Gen-Z students better than someone who is part of that generation.”
Lisa Fredericks, University of Northwestern – St. Paul:
“My university is a small campus, where the student body can experience quality relationships with their peers, faculty, and staff. With that, when I am scrolling through social media and come across content from my university, I hope that it reflects the kind of story and community it really is… I want the content to be relatable and ‘humanized.’ I would like to see stories of individuals on-campus or topics that will benefit and interest me or others I care about… My university should inherit an attitude and behavior on social media that represents its values as an institution, but be attractive in a way that its students, faculty, and staff look forward to its content because it’s memorable and encouraging messages. Social media impacts lives for good or bad. I hope that my university continues to be the good during the bad that can occur on or offline.”
Rebecca Lee, University of Massachusetts Amherst:
“Although I live a few hours away, it was difficult for my mother to coordinate her schedule with mine where we could visit the school and go on an official. In the end, I was unable to attend a tour, however, through social media, I was able to get more information about the school through videos and pictures they posted of and about the school and by asking questions to the Facebook group. I received detailed responses very quickly and it allowed me to get a good feeling of the school even though I didn’t attend a tour or go to physically see it… If my school didn’t have any active social media accounts, it would have been almost impossible for me to learn more about the school itself as well as meet other students, and I might not have chosen UMass without it.”
Hannah Burgess, Northern Arizona University:
“The presence of social media gives people information and also makes everyone feel heard. The importance of social media for Northern Arizona University is that it engages kids to read about what is happening on campus and get involved. When we have a sports game, not only does that schools use social media to advertise it, but they also bribe us with free stuff, because what college student doesn’t like free stuff? Platforms like Twitter and Instagram especially share the information and it gets around to a lot of people! For students, especially freshmen, it is hard to get involved on campus; many kids are shy… Northern Arizona University uses social media to show how fun activities on campus are, and how they are usually free! For me I have taken advantage of the social media aspect of it and now I want to get involved in activities for my major like Psychology Club.”
“Colleges of today, especially mine, use social media to announce events and spread news around campus. Flyers are less efficient because not everyone will see them. Social media, however, is a lot more effective.”
Jayden Swayze, University of Nebraska-Lincoln:
“Personally, the University’s induction into social media is the only way I see useful information daily… The presence of social media in my university, in my opinion, should be free-thinking, but should be limited from any political statute or offensive terms. As a student, good humor in social media accounts, particularly on Twitter, can be hugely successful in advertising campaigns and recruitment.”
Madysen Zula, Trinity Christian College:
“A college should have an honest social media [presence] to recruit the students that fit that environment the best. Social media allows for students to see what [the] campus is truly like and what the opportunities are that arise at that specific school. I appreciate when social media accounts can quickly notify students of weather conditions, meal menus, and changes in class times. I also love seeing well photographed, personal photos of campus that I can’t find on Google. Social media can give colleges the opportunity to show their personality to the world.”
Juan Roderiguez, Johns Hopkins University:
“Since my entire curriculum is online, I have used emails, social media and the access given from the University to create contact with my fellow students… In my academic and professional path, social media is a crucial point of access not only to communicate, but in my field it’s crucial to reach out and listen… I expect that social media is an essential portion of my academic institution…”
Teagan Gaul, University of Nebraska-Lincoln:
“Most high school seniors these days will check out a possible future universities social media before looking into the website. This is why it is important to show off all of the activities to spark interest in the widest audience. If a university only has pictures of their football games, and athletic activities, a theater girl who would not be able to tell the difference between a touchdown and a three-point shot would have absolutely no interest in continuing to look at the page, let alone consider attending the college… For example, most school district superintendents use Twitter to cancel school for weather, and my soccer team uses it to remind everyone to bring tennis shoes or that practice was moved to a new location. No matter if a college or university is big, or small social media is the best way to reach out to every student at virtually the exact same time, with minimal effort.”
Gabie Lockard, University of Nebraska-Lincoln:
“I expect my university to push the bar and go farther than just posting the typical campus photos from school events. My university needs to market themselves and sell themselves as a brand. When I think of their name, I want to be able to think of nothing but good experiences and new beginnings… I want my university to be fluent in the 21st-century language of emojis, memes, retweets, republishes, hashtags, etc.. all while sharing content that will be engaging yet informative. Hopefully, my college or university will even be able to use their student’s social media to grow a market for themselves, by uploading pictures they post to create a stronger more diverse profile, resulting in more student applications.”
“From my future university, I expect them to use social media platforms for students every step of the way on their academic journey. From applications to contracts, to enrollment, all the way to graduation.”
Cydney Goodrum, Southern Illinois University:
“Social media presence for colleges should include news, maps, financial information, and job openings… All content should be relevant to the student, whether in his or her freshman year, senior year, or graduate program… A constant worry of college students at any level is money! Will there be enough to pay for this semester? How about the next three or four years? Will finding the scholarships that really put a dent in the bill be easy to find? My expectation of the university is to connect students to people, foundations, grants, and organizations that can meet their financial needs on social media. Students need steady posts of scholarship opportunities across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram platforms throughout the year, not just in January or October!”
Jack Dorazo, Ventura College:
“I believe that universities that actively utilize social media as a means of providing insightful content for its students have a student body that is more informed and engaged…”
Katherine Lovejoy, University of Northwestern:
“I follow my university’s Facebook page and several of its Instagram accounts. As I am currently student teaching and am hardly on campus during the days, these have become my main sources of information about upcoming events and happenings and a big way to stay connected with those who are on campus. I think this is a very wise way for the school to deliver information and connect with students. It’s fast, it’s convenient, it’s relevant. Even today, the staff used Instagram (among other resources) to announce the cancellation of classes in the coming days due to dangerous weather conditions… All things considered, I expect that my school would publish and share information through various modes such as the school website and fliers as well as social media accounts such as Facebook and Instagram. By utilizing these sources to share information, the school is effectively and quickly reaching its audiences—past, present, and future students—in an appealing and desirable way.”
Barbara Ransom, West Chester University:
“I expect my university to create and maintain a realistic, interactive, and positive social media presence. A realistic social media presence creates pride in the students… For example, having polls, voting, and responding to questions and comments. This is an effective way for students on campus to see and feel like their voices are being heard.”
Alex Valero, Florida International University:
“The first thing I expect from my university is to encourage school spirit… Every university with a social media page does this in one way or another, but an effective ingredient in increasing spirit is having a strong overall culture and showing it through social media. For example, there are certain things about FIU that only FIU students and faculty know. I may not know the person walking out of the bookstore; however, I do know that they would not dare to step on the seal on their way out. Leveraging insider-only information in a fun way makes people feel like they are part of something. This feeling of inclusion can also be achieved by leveraging things in pop culture and putting an FIU twist on it. I am convinced that the most vital way to boost school spirit through social media is encouraging the student body to get involved in clubs, organizations, and events.”
Dylan Baird, Southern Illinois University:
“One of the most important ways schools use or should use social media platforms is in crisis situations. We live in a world where campus shootings are a reality. Social media provides the quickest way to disseminate information needed in these types of situations. During a time of crisis, students need to be able to rely on their college or university for accurate information instead of relying on rumors or misinformation that may spread throughout individual social media accounts. The school can provide real-time information to help the students stay safe, provide information about resources to assist the students following the crisis situation, and deliver information to the parents and families of the students at the school to keep them aware of events as they unfold.”
“One of the most important ways schools use or should use social media platforms is in crisis situations.”
Aisha Mohamed, Southern Illinois University:
“I expect the social media presence from my university to be up-to-date, a place where I can get the latest news about what’s going around campus. I also expect my school to keep me engaged as an alumni with events and opportunities to serve the new generation of students. I also expect my school to connect with the community to enhance my learning.”
Marco Moreno, University of the Incarnate Word:
“When I was a high school senior, I used social media as a way to understand what the college lifestyle was like and the environment which I would be around for the remainder of my educational career. Now, as a sophomore in college, I couldn’t feel more comfortable with the decision I made because of the vast cultural diversity and acceptance that my university displayed on their social media and on campus… My university’s page should exhibit their prestige and campus specific programs that they have to offer in comparison to other competitive colleges. In addition, I would expect my university to offer updates and alerts to inform/remind students of upcoming event locations or times, as well as relay urgent matters and emergencies that may require immediate attention.”
Molly Wolf, University of South Carolina:
“These platforms are a successful way to alert people on campus if there is a danger or event that needs to be addressed immediately. Since the rise of gun violence on school campuses, there has been the ongoing question of how to decrease the harm to students in these situations. Though hard to believe, social media can in fact be useful in this sense as well. Widespread posts and messages updating the students about where the incident is occurring and what to do to remain safe can be distributed with a single click and reach thousands of students immediately. This can be lifesaving because these are situations teachers and students are not trained to handle, so the extra support and information can be crucial in times of danger. Social media is as useful as you make it, so universities putting time and effort into developing their profiles into informative and widespread platforms can make the college experience as successful and enriching as possible.”
Kylie Gardner, Forsyth Technical Community College:
“To begin, the university would have to honor the students; perhaps post a ‘Student of the Week’ or ‘Month’ that allows the viewer to know the university and staff value their students. Next, the university would have to uphold a respectful presence online; there should be no derogatory captions, photos, or comments on other individual’s posts that defame the image of the school. The university’s profile should also hold postings of the events within the school, events sponsored by the school, informative contacts, and other detailed posts that allow students to keep up with the schedule within their school. To accomplish a positive nature that holds the interest of potential applicants, the university’s social media should be open to communication in a quick and effective manner. The individual who controls the social media profile of the university should take note of a student’s comment, direct message, or another way of communication and reply in a timely manner to ensure the student obtains the necessary knowledge and promote the helpfulness of the school and staff.”
Hayley Showalter, University of Nebraska-Lincoln:
“At my college, I expect the campus as a whole to use social media to stay connected and to connect better with its students… The use of social media, be it Twitter or Instagram or Facebook or Tumblr, is beneficial to spread important information fast and easily. On the other hand, social media can have a negative impact on any campus. While social media can create a sense of connectivity, the reality of it also creates isolation… I would expect every college campus, not just the one I attend, to have an extensive social media presence. I would expect that any college knows how to utilize social media, not just to share pictures and gain likes, but also to spread information and communicate with its students.”
Ce-Lai Powell Fong, University of California, Santa Cruz:
“If I ran the social media account, I would start by highlighting the many interesting and compelling extracurriculars that the student body participates in… The Human Genome Project? That was all us and everyone should know it. California surf culture? It originated in Santa Cruz, the city was voted to have the best surf in the entire United States… Our social media should capture the view of the sunset over the Monterey Bay, framed by ancient trees. Or the feeling of knowing that Santa Cruz is the home of revolutionaries and changemakers, people that challenged the status quo from every end of the spectrum such as Huey Long, the founder of the Black Panther Party, but also Nicholas Suntzeff, one of the people who discovered dark energy.”
“Our social media should be one reflective of the culture of the school. We’re one of the most ethnically diverse schools in California and that’s worth showcasing.”
Currey Zalman, University of Nebraska-Lincoln:
“The social media that I expect from the University of Nebraska is a clear path of communication from the university to students and prospective students alike. This easy and practical way of communicating would allow ideas and upcoming events to be passed on to all who want to listen… I also expect the social media of my university to be practical in the ability to get the word out to everyone if the students are in any danger. Not only must the university communicate with the students, the families of the students are also very important. Having a very protective, almost over-protective mom myself, I know first hand how much parents require every little bit of information.”
What do you think?
What type of social media presence do you expect from today’s colleges and universities? What about the companies you buy from or the organizations you engage with? We invite you to join the conversation by leaving your thoughts, opinions and perspectives in the comments below.
Finally, we’d like to give a shout out to all of the students who participated! Thanks for submitting your essay and be sure to visit our scholarship page soon for news about our next essay contest.