To Put This in Context:
Social media has transformed the college application process for high school students. And with more than 70% of students using social media to research higher education, college admissions officers are pursuing the best and brightest students long before they set foot on campus for a tour. If you are a college-bound student, learn how to take advantage this trend to make your big decision about college much easier.
Nine out of 10 teenagers use social media, and, according to Pew Research, 71% of them use over five social apps each day.  It’s a trend that has influenced higher ed admissions officers to engage students on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat to secure them as future alumni.
Here are three ways you can use social media to select the school — and degree — of your choice:
1. Use Facebook and Twitter to tip the scales.
Students desire instant gratification and information — especially when it concerns choosing a college. In a 2016 study of online college students, researchers from Aslanian Market Research and the Learning House found that 49% of students enroll in the first institution that responds to their initial inquiry. 
But because of digital networking, students can transcend inquiries in their college search altogether. Social media allows student to go on the offensive and connect with current students and institutions to hear about their experiences in real time, and often in direct and informal ways.
Such was the experience of high school senior and Twitter user Klaudia Jazwinska, who was interested in attending both Lehigh University and Lafayette College in eastern Pennsylvania.
After being accepted to both, she posted a tweet and tagged both schools, saying, “I need @LafCol to convince me why I shouldn’t go to @LehighU and vice versa.”
A mixture of Lehigh’s student population, the admissions department, the “ghost” of university founder Asa Packer, and the school marching band replied to Jazwinska and convinced her that Lehigh University was the perfect place to earn her journalism degree.
Lafayette was slow to respond, and Jazwinska, having felt an instant connection with the school and its community, chose Lehigh. 
Jazwinska’s example is dramatic, but it demonstrates the power of online networking. So as you research colleges and universities, use social media as a constructive tool to connect with the community members of your preferred institution. Ask them questions. Create a dialogue to influence your choice.
Nearly 50% of students report using social media when deciding where to enroll. #Context
2. Take an unfiltered Instagram tour.
Another senior, 19-year-old Jackson Barnett, was interested in attending college either in the Midwest or on the East Coast. But he knew that it would not be feasible to tour all the schools he desired. So he turned to college Instagram accounts to get a feel for their campus and student life.
Through geotagging, Barnett accessed other pictures taken on campus and connected with actual students, which provided even more insight into each college’s sense of place.
“It’s like having a tour by a real student who isn’t paid to show you the school and tell you the things the admissions office wants you to hear,” Jackson told Time magazine.  “You’re getting a tiny slice of that college and it’s real and raw.”
Barnett is right. The highly curated Instagram feeds of your selected universities may not give you full perspective — so broaden your search. Check the accounts of the community and degree programs within the institution. Determine if the environment is socially oriented toward causes like research or volunteerism, or if the campus is brimming with student life and on-campus events.
Four in five students report that social media conversations have influenced their enrollment decisions. #Context
3. Find deeper connections. Follow lesser-known accounts.
Don’t limit your college research to current students and the official social media accounts of your selected institution. You can broaden your search and gauge the receptiveness of a school to new students by:
- Using school-specific hashtags to glean information on Greek life, government, community involvement, intramural sports, and other areas of interest.
- Locating professors on social media to assess their openness to students.
- Following the online accounts dedicated to the school’s arts, humanities, or science programs to study its academic culture.
- Using YouTube to browse college or university channels and gain insight into student-life.
- Creating a LinkedIn profile to see the career-oriented side of an institution.
- Browsing university forums on Reddit to follow hot-button topics and discussions.
Consider it a red flag if any of these entities lack a social media presence, are difficult to find, or ignore your attempts at engagement — those schools may not be for you.
Did You Know?
In 2015, YouTube and Instagram showed a 70% increase in growth by social users that are students, whereas the proportion of students who are Facebook users remained stagnant.  It’s a trend that signifies a departure from brand-heavy academic social media accounts in favor of more personal, visual-first platforms.
Use social media well. Impact your future.
University social followers are passionate about their communities and want to influence others. And you have a unique opportunity to use social media platforms to engage with them throughout your academic career. So take full advantage of what social media offers to gain an honest perspective for your college decision-making process. These social efforts could prove valuable for your educational and professional future — but it all depends on how well you know how to use it.