SU uses social media to attract new students


The “Ship Bound” sign is part of a social media campaign the admissions office uses.

As the economy is often an unsure aspect of life, universities alike are never positive of what enrollment numbers could be in future academic years. Nowadays, Shippensburg University and other colleges must come up with many different strategies to attract the ever-changing academic needs and desires of a high school senior.

Today’s high school seniors, Generation Y, are remotely involved around a world that uses social media in all facets of life. This includes in the work place, as well as for sharing everyday news.
According to a 2013 Social Admissions Report conducted by Zinch and Inigral, approximately 72 percent of high school students now use social media to research colleges and enrollment. Zinch is an online scholarship and school-matching service, while Inigral is a company that concentrates on student engagement online.

Some competitors of SU currently run university and admissions social media pages for their institution. Kutztown University has both types of pages and even runs a separate graduate admissions and an undergraduate admissions Facebook page. Bloomsburg University has Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, but none that are directed toward their admissions office.

Peter Gigliotti, executive director for university communications and marketing, updates the Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts for SU’s general university pages. These pages were started several years ago to communicate with members of the campus community, those who express an interest in the university and alumni.

However, the SU Admissions office runs a Facebook and Instagram page directed more toward prospective students. These pages allow young adults to get a glimpse of what campus life is all about at Shippensburg. Jeremy Miller, assistant dean of admissions and coordinator of open house and social media, manages the pages. Miller also has started a class page on Facebook for incoming freshmen every year since 2011. Class pages allow classmates to connect with one another before the first day of classes and to keep in touch throughout the rest of their college career. Today, not having a class page is rare among both state institutions and Division I schools.

While having multiple online avenues allows prospective students to feel a connection toward a social media savvy institution, the SU admissions pages could be a step in the right direction for enticing students. According to the Zinch and Inigral report, only four in 10 students find information posted on a school’s social media sites relevant. These same students also rank information on clubs and organizations on the top of their “must-know” list when searching for universities, which is then followed by admissions office deadlines and campus visits.

Although the admissions office has not put a lot of recruitment effort into the use of social media alone, they are seeing some positive feedback from the accounts. Miller believes that the Instagram page, which was only started in August, is doing fairly well for the short amount of time it has been available online. On the Instagram page, Miller has posted his own photos of the campus and student life, as well as used other student photos that have been hashtagged or somehow associated with the university name.

“My goal is to post pictures from the road when our counselors are at different high schools, and more of campus, town and events,” Miller added.

Many of the photos used on the admissions Facebook page include a campaign that Miller came up with just two years ago called “SHIP Bound,” which is represented on all SU admissions postcards and brochures. “SHIP Bound” has become extremely well-known as high school graduates often share and post photos of themselves with their “I am SHIP Bound” sign, letting friends and followers know where they have chosen to further their education.

The idea behind the signs was to have seniors take photos at graduation ceremonies or parties, to illustrate their excitement for attending the university. This year confirmed students posted self photos with the “SHIP Bound” sign while traveling in different states and were even shared by international accepted students.

“People are excited about the college they are attending and this is a way to show it off,” Miller said.

Considering that the surrounding rural area might not be as heavy on social media as one would expect, it would be difficult for SU to use social media as a primary recruitment option. Miller says that a more personal touch, the campus tour, is still serving the university quite well. During a typical visit, families can hear from a counselor and current students in person. They tour the campus, have the opportunity to eat lunch and meet with coaches and faculty members.

For now, SU is sticking to its roots when it comes to student recruitment.

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