The future is here for communicating with college students and the current Millennial generation is leading the way, with 98% of them now owning a smartphone. 1 in 5 Americans rely solely on data plans from their smartphone and not other internet access with a disproportionate amount being minorities. Mainly because smartphone plans are often the most cost effective way of gaining access to both the internet and telecommunications. Gone are the days of sitting at a desktop computer and loading multiple pages in a browser to find info that a college is relaying to their students. The incoming student body wants simple and easy access, to do everything from register for classes to paying their bill from a phone.
Colleges are slowly embracing the change to mobile apps, smartphone push notifications and a social media presence to disseminate the most important notices that range from application deadlines to the more serious like emergencies on campus. Some of these are very costly, like the development, implementation and ultimately, upgrades to the mobile app. These are often limited to the largest universities or smaller schools with deep pockets. Push notifications sent out to student phones may also require software that smaller schools are not able to afford. But social media accounts are completely free and a quick way to reach both incoming students as well as the current student body.
Using Social Media to Reach Students
The Registrar, Admissions and even other students create campus-specific pages to follow. Students have embraced platforms like Facebook so much, they have been known to establish private groups where students can air grievances or share notes about class and only accept additions from classmates they know. Financial aid offices sometimes mix in weekly humor between FAFSA deadline posts to keep students engaged with the page. The sky is the limit in terms of what departments ultimately decide to share with their students but the most important thing to remember is that they only take time to run and not a lofty budget.
It’s important for college administrators to understand the access their study body has to the internet and the type of information they will be seeking out from particular platforms. While your school may not be able to afford the few hundred thousand dollars it may cost just to simply launch a campus-wide app, remember that students will look to see if your school is on Twitter or Instagram and ultimately end up following the accounts that are most important to them.
Lines of communications will continue changing at a fast pace and schools must constantly be aware of how to get the most important information in front of those that need it the most. While staff may still rely on “old fashioned” telephone and email campaigns along with the even more archaic U.S. mail system, students may be so impressed by schools that embrace new technologies that they use it as a factor to enroll at a campus over others.
Ask yourself, are you doing enough to keep Millennial students engaged?