Category Archives: admissions

You Don’t Have to Use it Yet; Just Be Open to Social Media

I was at the Social Media Club – Boston event last night where the topic of conversation was “Change dot Gov”.  The panel included Brad Blake, the Director of New Media Strategy for the commonwealth of Massachusetts, Matt Viser, a political reporter for the Globe, Brian Reich, a consultant, author, blogger and State Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan.

While listening to the panel, I was struck by how similar the rhetoric used by State Senator  Jennifer Flanagan was to some of the admissions offices I talk to.  Senator Flanagan, while having a constituency that includes an older demographic argued that she receives enough e-mails, talks to enough people while out and about in her community and through the use of her website and blog views Social Media as yet another tool that requires too much time without providing enough benefit for her constituents.

I think her argument can transition well into the international student recruiting space.  Like Senator Flanagan some of our offices may be concentrating our recruiting efforts in countries where students don’t have the same kind of access to the internet or high bandwidth as the developed nations.  This means we don’t need to start using certain tools of social media  just yet because let’s face it, we will be wasting our time.  However this barrier to using social media by developing nations will soon be knocked down.

So how should this affect the way our offices embrace social media?  We need to stay on top of what’s available and how it works. Our prospective students are only becoming more knowledgeable digital natives meaning they have grown up using all this great Internet technology, especially web 2.0 technology.   While next year and the year after prospective students may not require you to engage them exclusively through social media there will come a time where that will be the only way to effectively recruit.

Twitter for example may in fact be the worst tool to recruit international students right now but as it’s global popularity grows, agents in developing nations will begin to pick it up, potential university partners will pick it up, prospective students and so on.  So jump on Twitter and get used to how it works.  Understand how it can be used as a viral tool.  Understand how you can meet new people and develop relationships using it.

My recommendation to admissions offices is not to worry too much about using all the tools right now but to keep up with what’s out there and more importantly how these tools work!

Photo by David Ohmer

College Admissions Blog Carnival

The other day, while referring to the development of college admissions office listening strategies, I offered the idea of using Google Reader to follow other bloggers who share ideas on the college admissions process.  Well there is a great opportunity to add to your list of blog subscriptions with at the most recent College Admissions  Blog Carnival.

There are posts ranging from topics about college search to Getting in: The College Admissions process.  Do check it out, I am sure there will be some contributors that you will find worth following!

College and University Budgets Contracting? Start Thinking Creatively

DSCN1583We all are aware of our current economy’s struggles.  We can see it directly affecting our abilities to maintain certain initiatives at our jobs.  While many think that a decrease in budgets will ultimately hinder our ability to meet recruiting goals we should take a minute and look at the situation from a new angle.

A lack of ‘sufficient’ funds will force us to think creatively about how we can achieve our goals.

I guess I have some experience with this as someone who is bootstrapping the start-up of a company however looking back, it has offered me the opportunity to develop my entrepreneurial creativity.  I have talked to many schools who are throwing money at the creation of videos, development of YouTube channels, interactive campus maps, extravagant recruiting tours and so much more.  While this is great and important there are other avenues of lesser cost which could prove to be sneakily effective.

Want to increase your exposure to students interested in your school?  Want to get your school’s name in front of thousands of students in specific cities, countries?

One idea that will cost you virtually nothing but a little time and social interaction is getting to know the advisers at EducationUSA who are interacting with millions (just listen to Janaka Pushpanathan of the Chennai office talk about the USIEF advising centers) of prospective international students each year.  While visiting the USEFP office in Lahore I had a great conversation talking to the Education adviser and noticed during our conversation what was hanging on the wall behind him.

Roger Williams Univesity had sent their school’s pennant and poster that hung directly behind him in the site line of any student who sits down in front of him asking for advice on which schools might be a good fit for them.

Roger Williams University well represented

Roger Williams University well represented

One thought is to talk to advisers in the locations of interest to you, ask them about the ideas of hanging a poster in their advising center.

If there is an opportunity to do that make sure your poster has a call to action on it.  For example don’t just stick your school’s name on the poster or pennant.  Include a web address specific to the international student with a message telling them something tot he effect of “See what opportunities await international students at School XYZ”.

While in South Asia my conversations with the EducationUSA advisers showed me how eager these advisers are to help students and get them information about schools in the US.  Take advantage of the energy and passion of these EducationUSA advisers and ask them how you can better work with their offices.

Best part, all this work with EducationUSA is free!

Balance Virtual with Reality

There is so much emphasis these days on using social media for recruiting international students.  I do believe that it is a necessity to leverage social media but in order to leverage it successfully we must understand what it is.

Social media is merely a toolset for developing relationships.  It’s great that we are able to connect instantly with people from around the world to deliberate on topics of common interest but I still believe a relationship is not complete until the face to face meeting.

I’m sitting in the Abu Dhabi Airport on my way to the EducationUSA conference in Dehli, India realizing how great it will be to finally meet face to face with people I have been corresponding with for months.  Yes we effectively speak via the internet and develop a rapport but the relationship in my mind will be much more meaningful after meeting in person.

The same goes for developing relationships with students.  If there are students that are interested in your school and have corresponded with you via the internet in some capcity, try to manage a face to face meeting with them if you happen to be recruiting in their city.  Nothing in my mind is more meaningful both for the admissions counselor or the prospective student.

The Importance of Being Focused

How many international recruiting initiatives are you using?  Have you been able to devote enough time to those initiatives to be extremely effective?

Time and resources are always our greatest enemies.  There are so many great services to utilize but unfortunately for most of us we just don’t have the time or man power to employ them effectively.  So rather than using a new service or social media initiative because it is new and popular, first realize if you are going to be able to devote enough time and energy to make it worth your school’s while.

There was a great blog post from the Toilet Paper Entrepreneur about being ‘The Master of Too‘.   He asks, ‘…Name the athlete who won gold medals in swimming, fencing, gymnastics, and basketball – in the same Olympics. Stumped? That’s because no one has done it, and no one ever will.’

The idea that someone could spend enough time and energy to be the best at such a wide variety of sports is unrealistic.  The same goes for the international student recruiting industry.  If we don’t have a focus on which type of students we would like to recruit or which initiatives we can be the best at, we will continue to see mediocre results from all of our efforts.

The secret is to be focused.  Cut out all the fat so to speak.  Eliminate the services that sound great in theory but that are not given the attention necessary to make them successful.

We just embarked on a new year.  This is a great time to reassess which services we are using and eliminate the ones that we don’t have the time or energy to be the best at.  It is important to see results with any initiative we utilize so make sure when you do say, ‘This is so cool, I want to use this service’, you can devote the time and energy necessary to use it effectively.

New Year, New Goals for Social Media in International Student Recruiting

Well, it’s 2009 and another opportunity to make new goals.  So what’s it going to be?  Here are 3 ideas for you to take advantage of social media in 2009.

Create a strategy for using social media

The reason social media might seem so overwhelming is because there are so many options.  Well make your life simple, create a plan for using social media by realizing your resources (time, finances, manpower) and recruiting objectives.

With your plan created, research which social media options will best help you in recruiting international students.  Choose one or two of those options and begin using them.  Become an avid user, read about how others are successfully using those services and emulate them.

Take more time to learn about social media

The best way to effectively use social media is to invest the time to learn from others.  Yes, the learning curve to utilizing all these different web services can be overwhelming but the longer you resist to learn the more overwhelming it will become.

There are plenty of individuals within the admissions recruiting, international admissions and higher education fields who write blogs, are on twitter, podcast and so much more.  Find the people who are the most helpful to you and keep up with what they say.

A couple of blogs that I find really interesting are:

UtechTips

SquaredPeg

InternationalCounselor

HigherEdWebTech

HigherEdMarketing

.eduGuru

If you are interested in following these bloggers on twitter you will be able to find their usernames on each of their blogs.

Get social

A majority of your prospective students are digital natives growing up with digital technology.  They are all using some sort of social media whether it is Facebook, Orkut or YouTube.  So it is time to get on these websites and start getting social.

Check out this video from Inigral on how admissions offices can effectively engage prospective students using Facebook…

Facebook for Admissions Marketing from Inigral Inc. on Vimeo.

Social Media for International Admissions: Either Get In the Game or Get Out

There has been a lot of conversation over the past day and a half regarding this 2013 ‘Facebookgate’ scandal.  If you haven’t heard yet, the full investigative report from Brad J. Ward can be found on his blog at www.squaredpeg.com.

If you want the quick overview, College Prowler may have crossed the vague lines of ethical Facebook use when they created unofficial class of 2013 groups for various US educational institutions.  College Prowler’s interns were in turn the admins of these groups hence controlling the flow of mass information to the group’s student members.

As Brad points out, while this isn’t a big deal if this were only done with one school, the fact that they had created groups for many schools and many students were joining each group, the potential power over the flow of information to a very valuable target market was in College Prowler’s control (they were definitely seeing dollar signs in their eyes)

I see this as a wake up call and an opportunity to point out how important it is for institutions to be of the conversations about their schools on the internet.  The social web in which we live and participate is an ongoing conversation.  A conversation that can’t be had unless all parties are willing to participate.  Yes that mean you too admissions offices!!!

Institutions need to understand that it isn’t enough just to have a username and profile of a social network like Facebook or to have an account on Twitter.  We need to be active participants of these mediums and not defer to our students to lead the initiatives on these internet services.  We now see what can happen when we leave our voices out of the conversation.

I think Brad and all the others who participated in the investigation of ‘Facebookgate’ would agree that without collaborative tech like Twitter and Google docs this investigation would have taken much longer and may have never been uncovered (imagine trying to use e-mail to have a conversation amongst hundreds of people).  So what does that say about the usefulness of social media?

If there is something to be learned today (other than karma is alive and well) it is that institutions can no longer sit on the fence with social media.  We either have to committ or get out of the game (and unfortuantely getting out of the game isn’t really an option).  So if you are going to be on Facebook, be a part of the conversations that relate to your school!

I think ultimately we will find that although we have to work a little harder to overcome the learning curve of new social media, in the long term it will make our jobs more fulfilling.  But more importantly actively using social media will create a college admissions experience that the Gen Y prospective student demands!

I do want to congratulate Brad and everyone else who participated in the investigation.  It is great to see the power of social media when used for good!