Is Social Media a Good Way to Research Colleges?

Today’s prospective college students probably don’t remember a world without social media, and they might even think that these networks represent a great way to research universities and make a decision on college majors, housing and campuses. While these social networks do represent a really great way to see how the school interacts with parents and students, they’re certainly not the most unbiased source of information about admissions prospects, academic programs, student outcomes and overall performance, retention rates, opportunities, and technology. These pages tend to be managed by marketers, and are specifically designed to bring new students into the fold. For better research, several other sites exist that provide much better information.

Start with Major Publications About University Performance

The publishing industry has long been obsessed with the details of college performance, and that has always been a good thing for students. The most legendary publications concerned with university rankings are the Princeton Review and U.S. News and World Report. Both publications rank schools based on a few key metrics: Student retention rate, admissions selectivity, availability of academic programs, and prestige of individual majors at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

This gives real insight into how a university performs, and it measures whether or not certain majors are a good choice at each school a student is considering. Both publications claim to present unbiased information gleaned from student surveys in the preceding academic year, and they also include information from the National Student Loan Database System and other federal sources of raw data about school performance.

College Websites are Better Than Their Facebook and Twitter Pages

Facebook and Twitter pages for universities are often run by marketing departments and social media managers, which makes them more of a promotional tool than one used for information and research. University websites, however, are not run by marketing departments. They’re often overseen by individual academic departments and the school’s board of trustees, who post regular news and information about the school’s programs, professors, and previous students. The websites also feature virtual campus tours, online applications, and in-depth information about each college, department, professor, and required course within a degree program. This makes the website an invaluable first or second resource for students developing a shortlist of potential schools.

Nothing Can Take the Place of a Campus Tour

Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of seeing and experiencing a college or university in person. These institutions all have a unique “feel,” and they all attract a different kind of student. Print and online research can’t really reveal the way schools recruit, feel, and function, but a campus tour can fill in the blanks. For the very final decision between candidate universities, take a tour of the campus. Meet with students and professors, and determine whether or not this is going to be the right fit. If it feels right, make sure to file an application early. If not, continue looking at more schools until the right one comes along.

Many Great Ways Exist to Research Today’s Colleges and Universities

The advent of sites like Facebook and Twitter has changed the way people interact with their universities, but it shouldn’t change the way people research them. Though social media is good at many things, researching university performance should be left to leading publications, school websites, campus tours, and more traditional means of determining how well a school measures up to its local competition.