College Search Goes Online For "Constantly Connected" Students
CONCORD, Mass., Sept. 26, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- As part of the first generation to grow up online, the Class of 2016 has social media savvy. But don't give up the website yet! Facebook is not the king when it comes to researching colleges and universities; prospective students continue to put college websites at the top of the list, according to the 2012 Annual College Decision Impact Survey from Maguire Associates and Fastweb.com. The organizations queried over 4,300 high school seniors about the factors that influence where they apply to school, including websites and social media.
"As prospective students have more online resources to use, colleges and universities need more sophisticated online strategies for communicating with them at every touch point," said Kim A. Reid, Vice President for Research Operations at Maguire Associates. "Success here rests on understanding how and when students use the web and social media and then prioritizing institutional efforts to meet those needs. It's all part of a much larger digital strategy."
Websites are the "Holy Grail"
Even though students are constantly connected to social media, they're bypassing these resources in favor of information aggregators, student review sites, and colleges' own websites for most of their initial information gathering. In addition to Fastweb.com, they're gravitating to sites like Cappex.com for their initial searches. From there, they are clicking to colleges' individual websites for a "deeper dive." For example, 7 out of 10 use these sites to learn more about academic offerings, fees, and admissions deadlines. "College websites remain the Holy Grail for institutional information, followed closely by printed materials," said Ms. Reid."Just as college admissions staff and scholarship providers are increasingly screening the online presence of applicants, applicants are increasingly looking online to read what other students write about the colleges," said Mark Kantrowitz, Publisher of Fastweb.com. "9 out of every 10 survey respondents use Facebook and YouTube and about half use independent websites like the College Board and College Prowler," he added. While reaching out to prospective students, however, colleges must monitor their digital footprint beyond their own websites. "Institutions may not always be able to control the messages conveyed online, especially where student reviews are included, but it is important to be aware of what's being said in order to challenge misinformation," Ms. Reid added.
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