Stacey Kostell, director of admissions at the University of Illinois, is in a unique position: With Illinois being one of the largest state schools in the country, how does she provide prospective students with a personalized view of the campus? From Stacey’s experience, the answer is showcasing the broad diversity on campus and communicating it through enrolled students. While students are still asking the basic questions–How do I get in? What ACT score do I need? When is the application deadline?—Stacey sees social media as an important lens for students to look through to get to know Illinois.
We spent some time talking with Stacey to learn about U of I”s social media program.
Q: Could you explain why social media has such a large presence on the Illinois undergraduate admissions site?
With a big place like this, we wanted our undergraduate admissions site to somehow represent all the different voices our current student body encompasses. After all, the students can sell the school better than we can. The social media integration, such as YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, WordPress and Facebook provide so many different kinds of channels for so many different kinds of students to tell their stories and provide their personal and authentic views of the University of Illinois.
We are also committed to continually improving the site based on what our hits are telling us. If the clicks tell us to make more students blogs, we’ll head in the direction. We have millions of hits, and it only makes sense to keep reorganizing the admissions site based on what information, and in what form, prospective students want to see it.
Q: Why have you chosen to create multiple Facebook pages from Illinois admissions?
We decided that since we’re a big school with a lot of different sets of information to get across, three pages would get the right information to the right students. So we built three separate Facebook admissions pages: one for prospects, one for admitted freshman students and one for admitted transfer students since each group has different needs. The two admitted pages will essentially become their “Class of 2015” pages for students to communicate with each other, ask questions, and comment on posts. The pages work as another lens through which students can learn about the university.
Q: How has social media and online recruiting affected your recruiting strategies?
Traditional recruiting methods, although still useful for many of our needs, are limited and expensive. Online recruiting techniques have allowed us to cast a much wider net. Online college search tools gives us a way to geographically reach students we wouldn’t necessarily be able reach without spending a lot of money using some of the more expensive traditional methods. Cappex’s inquiry production, for example, is displacing some long-established list buys such as the PSAT search.
Q: What advice would you give other schools about online recruiting and social media?
On top of the traditional modes of communication, the social media produced by our own enrolled students provides another opportunity for students to connect with the school in a way they’re comfortable connecting. In the end, whether you’re using online recruiting and social media or not, it’s important to keep your information honest and authentic.