Admission Officials’ Tweets Fall on Deaf Ears

Colleges are ramping up efforts to connect with prospective students through Twitter—but students aren’t interested, a new study says.

Evidence has shown that teenagers rely on college visits and Web sites to learn about colleges, rather than social-media outlets. When it comes to Twitter, students are barely on the site at all, let alone for college research purposes.

Abe Gruber, director of marketing at Bloomfield College, found in a recent study that while 40 percent of college admissions offices are active on Twitter, only 15 percent of prospective students expressed interest using in Twitter to learn about colleges.

Mr. Gruber surveyed 200 prospective freshmen and 70 admissions offices in his study. He presented his findings at the Hobsons Connect U conference this week in Minneapolis.

“Twitter scores high for the admissions officers, but not for students,” said Mr. Gruber.

He calls this disparity “the Twitter anomaly.” Most high-school students are not active on Twitter, he says, but college admissions officers typically fall into the 30-to-40 age demographic that Twitter attracts.

“They just hear this as a buzz word,” said Mr. Gruber. “They keep hearing more and more and thinking it’s the next big thing, when their prospective students aren’t really as involved as they think they are.”

According to the study, Twitter is the second most popular form of social media used by college admissions offices (trailing Facebook by 28 percentage points). Twitter is the most up-and-coming form of social media used by colleges, with 35 percent of admissions officials planning to start accounts in the next year.

Rebecca Whitehead, assistant director of campus visits and engagements at Winthrop University, maintains the admissions office’s Twitter account, which currently has 373 followers. She says she uses it largely to connect with other higher-education professionals, to find out about upcoming events or research.

Ms. Whitehead anticipates that high-school students will eventually become more active on Twitter. For now, however, she agrees with Mr. Gruber’s findings, characterizing the account’s impact on students as “very low.”

“Right now, it’s a little difficult to engage with students,” she said. “So right now, we’re just trying to build a presence.”

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