Straight Talk Bob McDonnell

Colleges are now using social networking sites to recruit students through posting pages about their school. At the same time, however, many of these same colleges may be looking at the student’s social networking page (Facebook, MySpace, etc.) to get a better idea about the student as a candidate for their school. Keep this in mind when posting things (comments, pictures, etc.) on a social networking account.

In the article, “The Admissions Office Finds Facebook,” by Alison Damast of Business Week, it talks about keeping an eye on the demographics, that schools are seeking applicants through social networking sites.

A few months ago, Steven Price logged onto his Facebook page one evening to do his usual check-in with family and friends before going to bed. He was surprised when he found a “friend” request from Scott Minto, the director of the admissions office at San Diego State University’s Sports Management Program sitting in his inbox.

“I was blown away,” said Price, 22, a recent college graduate who is applying to business schools this fall and is currently interning with the Minnesota Vikings. “I’d been in touch with other schools through emails and phone calls, but I’d never had any schools contact me through Facebook.”

Minto is part of a small but growing number of graduate school and college admissions officers who are aggressively using Facebook to recruit students for their programs. Many have built their own Facebook fan pages, which they are using as a tool to display videos, pictures and news articles about their schools. Others are using the site as a marketing tool, purchasing advertisements and targeting them towards certain demographic of students, based on their age and location. By drawing students to Facebook, schools hope to keep in constant touch with potential students, as well as provide them with important updates on the school, without bombarding them with dozens of emails and mass mailings.

“College and graduate school admissions officers are on the cutting edge of this,” said Nora Ganim Barnes, director for the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, who recently conducted a study which found that 29 percent of university admissions departments surveyed used social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace (NWS) — a level higher than fast-growing Inc. 500 corporate respondents. “If you’re an undergraduate or graduate institution and you’re looking to attract people 35 and under, then I think you have to go to Facebook because that’s where your opportunity is,” she said.

This is the case for Minto, 27, who estimates that he spends several hours a day updating the page and communicating with the students who send him questions via the page. The school also spends some of its advertising dollars on other areas of Facebook, placing ads that are targeted to the student audience Minto is seeking: college graduates 24 to 34.

• Bob McDonnell is executive director of Arizona College Planners, L.L.C., a member of the College Planning Network, the National Association of College Funding Advisors and the National Association of College Acceptance Counselors. For questions, email

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