We often hear our parents and teachers lament on their high school and college years with phrases such as, “When I was your age, before [insert website, social network, technology, etc.], things were simpler…” In an era of rapidly evolving social media platforms, mass information, a wristwatch that’s also a phone, and selfie sticks, today’s prospective college students were born into an environment of fast-paced innovations and a constant need to stay connected to others.
Thanks to a plethora of technological advancements, this generation also has more resources than ever before to stay connected to campus news, learn more about academic programs, and even make personal connections with current and former students. Most teenagers are already pros at communicating with friends and family via texting, FaceTime, Twitter, and emoji-usage. Here are a few ways to utilize your internet-surfing skills and tech-proficiency to stay connected to college news and updates throughout your search and application processes.
Campus News Organizations
In my opinion, one of the best, most direct ways to receive news about a potential college is through student-run publications, news channels, radio networks, and other media outlets. When I was in the process of searching and applying for colleges, I bookmarked the websites of student newspapers and magazines of my potential schools and checked them almost daily.
Sure, it’s convenient (and fun) to type in the name of a college in Google images and scroll through pretty campus pictures of ivy-covered buildings, impeccable landscaping, and mascots, but it’s important to get a taste of what a school is actually like beyond the surface. Checking out student news websites (some publications even have an mobile app version), tuning into campus radio podcasts, and even watching news broadcasts (if available) will not only inform you of major events happening at the school (i.e. new university leaders, big construction plans, etc.), but, more importantly, will give you a greater sense of the student life and social climate.
Most colleges and universities have Twitter accounts where they post general updates about news, accomplishments, advancements, and the school as a whole. While you should definitely follow your potential colleges to get updates from around campus, delve deeper into the wonders of Twitterland by seeing who the official college or university account follows. You might be surprised at how many student clubs, leaders, professors, and campus centers Tweet news, photos, videos, and links to further information.
Follow specific academic departments to learn about what kinds of projects students are working on, where students and alumni have internships and jobs, current and future travel and research opportunities, and more. Also, make sure to follow the college or university’s official “admissions” account–oftentimes, they post important reminders and deadlines for applications and scholarships that you will not want to miss. Even if you already took note of these dates, it will be helpful to receive reminders on Twitter throughout the year.
In recent years, Facebook has obtained the stigma of being “overrun by parents,” which has drawn many teenagers away from the social networking site. However, Facebook is a mecca of links to news and opinion articles about higher education, as well as information about specific schools. My advice? Tuck away any preconceived notions about Facebook and embrace the many amazing resources it provides. (While you’re at it, you may want to resurrect your old profile that hasn’t been touched since middle school.) Like Twitter, most colleges and universities have a Facebook page, as well as the academic departments and schools within the institution.
While Twitter is helpful for brief ideas, updates, and reminders, Facebook is a great option for those who enjoy reading longer articles, college rankings and lists, and even watching promotional or informational YouTube videos from or about the school. Since I have always leaned towards studying journalism and mass communications, throughout my college search, I “liked” the Facebook pages of the journalism schools at each university I considered. Then, just by scrolling through my feed, I got a glimpse of the innovations, changes, new additions, and special programs at each school.
Yes, you read that right. Snapchat, the app that by displays “snaps” (photos) for up to 10 seconds before they are “hidden”, has essentially replaced conventional photo messaging for many teenagers and tech savvy young adults.
In an effort to reach more prospective and current students with fresh, ephemeral content, many colleges and universities have jumped on the Snapchat bandwagon (Read more about it in this article by TIME). I am not the biggest Snapchat junkie, but I follow the University of Florida’s account. Some of their past “stories” have included live snaps of major events, including commencement, sporting events, and snippets of guest speakers–as well as beautiful shots of campus. While Snapchat may not always provide the detail and depth of more traditional forms of media, it is a unique and fun way for students to get a live, unfiltered glimpse of campus happenings.
YouTube is one of my favorite online platforms because I feel that it exemplifies the beauty and possibilities of storytelling. Even as a firm believer in the power of the written word, some stories and information have a stronger impact when expressed visually.
Many colleges and universities maintain regularly updated YouTube channels with content ranging from promotional material and vlog-style videos, like “A day in the life of a [insert school here] student,” to updates about specific academic or research departments and major student, faculty, or alumni accomplishments or innovations. While college YouTube channels may lack the “instant news” factor of Twitter and Facebook, YouTube allows schools to expand upon short glimpses showcased on Snapchat with higher quality, more detailed videos that are sure to inform, entertain, and inspire.
Another useful way of staying connected to college news is to subscribe to schools’ email updates. Email subscriptions are a growing trend–not only for colleges and universities, but for major news organizations–since they allow a wide range of audiences to stay informed without the hassle of usernames, passwords, or fees.
If there is a school you are planning on visiting, make sure you are subscribed to their email updates for prospective students. Typically, on a college website, this can be found in a link that says something along the lines of “Request more info.” For schools you have already visited or plan to apply to, subscribe to the admissions emails (once you make an account to apply, you will likely begin receiving emails from the admissions office automatically). Some academic programs may even offer email subscriptions, so if you have a few majors in mind, subscribe to that college or department for updates and news sent straight to your inbox.
While these are the major social media sites and methods I found most helpful in my own college search, there are practically endless options when it comes to staying connected to campus news. Do some research and find which website or resource is the best option for you! Besides, with the ever-changing world of media, it’s only a matter of time until the “next big” news platform makes its grand debut.