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Pub Admin 2014 5 15 LinkedIn
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{Headlines} May 2014, Vol. 2
LinkedIn to College

By Sarah Stewart


Social media continues to change the way we communicate and connect with the world around us, and increasingly it is working its way into one of the most critical, gut-wrenching, and laborious tasks high school students will face: choosing and gaining admission into college. 

On the high school level college counseling departments often have their own Facebook page and Twitter accounts where they can push out information, reminders, dates, news, and post pictures or videos from college tours, or other important information. Counselors are writing blogs about choosing a college, and also recommending students to investigate schools of interest online. Students can interact with a prospective college via its Facebook page, Twitter account, or blogs. Many colleges host Twitter chats throughout the year to connect with prospective students. They create Facebook pages for prospective students so they can interact with other applicants, as well as admissions representatives. Once accepted, students gain access to a private Facebook page for their graduating class. And this past August 2013, LinkedIn expanded its offerings for students, a move that some in the industry believe will revolutionize both the way people use LinkedIn and how students choose colleges, identify majors, find internships, and in general progress through their careers. 

As of 2013, LinkedIn allows students as young as 14 to create a profile via its student portal. On the site students can post their accomplishments, projects, activities, test scores, and other information that would benefit them in gaining admission to a college. On LinkedIn’s University Pages, which was also launched in 2013, students can view general information about different schools, as well as news, updates, and demographic data. They can browse and connect with notable alumni. They can research the types of professions a school’s graduates pursued, what companies they work for, and where they live. They can link major and job choices with career outcomes. In addition, LinkedIn offers an internship portal where students can connect with businesses and identify opportunities. If you think five or ten years from now, LinkedIn could be carrying students from 9th grade to college, to internship, to their coveted career.

“Deciding on a college is perhaps one of the most important decisions a student will make after high school,” said Crystal Braswell, Manager of Corporate Communications at LinkedIn. “LinkedIn can provide both a vehicle for students to market themselves, a beginning for their professional journey, and a lot of data in terms of their career potential based on the major or university they choose.”

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the average acceptance rate at a four-year U.S. college is two-thirds of all applications, a slight decline in the last decade. Selective colleges typically receive about a third of all college applications, but they accept only half or less. The top factors in the admission decision are (in order): grades in college preparatory courses, strength of curriculum, standardized admission test scores, and overall high school grade point average. Among the next most important factors, which were deciding factors among selective schools and private colleges, were essay, student’s demonstrated interest, counselor and teacher recommendations, class rank, and extracurricular activities. 

Universities are also getting more social to attract students. According to the NACAC’s 2013 State of College Admission report, in 2012, 96 percent of colleges provided links to their social networking site in their marketing materials and communications, up from just 39 percent in 2008. Also 52 percent of colleges (up from 42 percent in 2007) offered blogs from current students, 25 percent offered blogs from admissions offices, and 20 percent offered podcasts. 

However, in most of the materials from NACAC, as well as the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools, LinkedIn is not quite on the radar…yet. Jeff Morrow is the Director of College Counseling at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, CA, a suburb of Los Angeles. Morrow has been at Oaks Christian since 2003, and in education and higher education since 1997. The school offers a Christian college preparatory experience for middle and high school students. Opened in 2000, the school has experienced tremendous growth and today enrolls around 1,000 high school students, and 500 middle school students on its 18-acre campus.

Morrow says the school is constantly evaluating the resources available to its students via technology in the college admission process. In the realm of social media, it has used Facebook, Twitter, and blogging, but LinkedIn is “definitely on the radar.” Morrow heard about the University Pages and student section on LinkedIn when they announced them last year. And this past March he was invited to participate in a panel at LinkedIn’s headquarters. The panel included around 30 college counselors from across the country and LinkedIn’s education consultants. They spent the morning touring LinkedIn, and then met the consultants to discuss how students can leverage LinkedIn’s tools, and how the social media outlet is transitioning from being a network for professionals, to being a network for alumni, that connects alumni. 

“LinkedIn is something we are absolutely going to push and we are already seeing our students using to an extent,” he said. “It gives high school students access to some pretty sophisticated data and search engines. It’s a hybrid that connects you to actual people who are alumni, and where students can find a mentor, or investigate how people progressed in their careers. It’s genius, it makes perfect sense.” Morrow organizes 13 or 14 spotlights throughout the year for parents and students on the college admissions process. He plans to add a session on LinkedIn next year.

Morrow, who also spent time working in the admissions office at his Alma Mater Pepperdine University, said social media and digital resources continue to change the way colleges identify and connect with potential students as well. In the past, colleges would have to purchase the test scores of students, and then identify factors that would indicate a fit such as religious affiliation, extracurricular activities, or areas of interest, and “cast a wide net.” With many of the tools available today, colleges can market to students in a much more personalized, targeted manner. One website that demonstrated this, and which Morrow recommends to his students, is Zinch. Founded in 2009, Zinch works somewhat like or eHarmony, connecting students to colleges and scholarships based on data. 

As more students leverage LinkedIn, the website could offer universities a similar platform to find students. Moreover, for students looking to gain an edge in admission to a selective college, showcasing one’s work via LinkedIn or finding connections could be a deciding factor. And students might realize they prefer a different college than “where their parents went” based on the data of where those graduates are working or living. Could LinkedIn data eventually be the new way to rank colleges or certain degrees’ return on investment?

Whatever the outcome, one thing is certain, the college admissions process is changing. Kevin Sellers is the Director of College Counseling for Salem Academy, a boarding and day school for girls 9th through 12th grade, located in Winston-Salem, NC. Before joining Salem Academy last year, Sellers spent eight years in the college admissions office at High Point University in High Point, NC, where he eventually held the position of Director of Admissions. During his time at High Point he witnessed the evolution of how colleges use social media. When he started in 2005, the university hardly used social media to evaluate or connect with students, but when he left, Facebook and Twitter were common tools. At Salem he encourages his students to connect with admissions staff or other college applicants through social media, and while he has yet to use LinkedIn, he sees the potential. “I think it would be very useful for students, and get them thinking about networking and their interests at an earlier age,” he said. 

Braswell from LinkedIn was the first in her family to go to college, and thinks a resource like LinkedIn’s University Pages would have been a valuable resource. She chose to major in public relations at California State University- Chico, and over the course of her career, she’s held positions with various public relations agencies, Sony Computer Entertainment America, and now manages corporate communications at LinkedIn. While happy with her career choices, she says a tool like LinkedIn’s University Pages would have helped her to connect with a broader range of schools, and understand where her major led. Considering the incredible cost and time commitment of attaining a degree, the more informed you can be, the better.

“With the challenges that college graduates are facing today finding jobs, and many starting out with debt, it’s important to equip them with as much data as possible, and look at the career potential tied to the major they choose, or the jobs they take,” she said. “It’s another way to set them up for success.”


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