How Technology is Reshaping the College Application Process

College campus

August 1, 2012

There are certain long-standing rites of passage once expected for college-bound high school seniors: Browsing college fairs and catalogs, toiling away over stacks of college applications and, eventually, hitting the road for a whirlwind of campus visits. According to a number of reports, however, technology has made many of these experiences obsolete.

Campus Technology reports that a new study conducted by the Society for New Communications Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research reveals that one in three responding schools believe social media was better than traditional media in terms of connecting to and recruiting potential students. Their channels of choice: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, with downloadable apps coming in fourth. In fact, 92 percent of undergraduate admissions officers interviewed said that social media is a worthy investment, and 86 percent indicated they intend to increase their investment in social media for the next school year.

"This is the first time a study has documented ROI for those using social media in the high-ed sector," said Senior Fellow and Research Co-Chair Nora Ganim Barnes, as reported by Campus Technology. "It is interesting to see that colleges and universities are moving away from printing and other traditional media tools and moving towards using social media tools."

The report is just the latest of many that suggest technology and social networking are having a profound impact on how colleges -- and college students -- wade through the admissions process. Take the Common Application, for instance. According to The Washington Post, students can apply to any of the 450 participating schools by filling out a single online application. While students still have the option of filling out the paper version, the convenience of web-based applications wins out more often than not. According to the Post, more than 300 college hopefuls registered with the site within the first 30 minutes of the 2012-13 application going live on Tuesday night.

Even the way today's students experience potential campuses has changed. According to Mobiledia, apps and websites offering virtual college tours are replacing -- or at least downsizing -- family road trips and school-sponsored college tours.

"Students now are applying to more colleges, there's more competition for admission and they want to compare financial aid packages," Audrey Kahane, a college admissions counselor, told the Los Angeles Times, as reported by Mobiledia. "But when you're applying to so many schools, it's just not practical to go out and visit every one, especially when they're all across the country."

According to Mobiledia, many officials warn, however, that even the most interactive apps cannot replace a good old-fashioned college tour or a visit with an admissions counselor. Still, many schools seem to embrace these changes.

Compiled by Aimee Hosler


"College admissions season begins with launch of 2012-13 Common Application,", August 1, 2012, Valerie Strauss

"Facebook, YouTube Top List of Best Recruitment Tools, Study Finds,", July 31, 2012, Kanoe Namahoe

"How Tech Takes the Pain Out of College Visits,", July 31, 2012, Sandy Fitzgerald

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