We live in the age of social media. According to some studies done by the Pew research organization, 73% of online adults use a social networking site of some kind and 42% use multiple sites. Every platform available, especially Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram has shown increases in uses in the last year. We consume, we share, we connect.
Colleges know the importance of our online lives and use the web heavily in their admissions process. They reach out to both students and parents through avenues from websites to social media platforms to chat rooms. According to research conducted by Noel Levitz, the higher education consulting firm, some 45% of parents have looked at college websites on their mobile devices. Colleges have established profiles and pages and feeds and boards on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn. More than 200 colleges have LinkedIn profiles and many others have statistics listed. Clearly, both students and parents are using social media as one method of finding the right college.
But perhaps your student has now not only found a college, but headed off to college. Are you ready to turn off social media? Probably not. Of course, you can continue to use social media platforms to keep track of what your student is doing. Much has been written about parents and their teens/young adults and use of social media. Should you friend your student on Facebook, follow his Twitter feed, connect on LinkedIn, and follow his Instagram account? That is a very personal decision and one which you and your student should discuss. It may be comforting to you and comfortable to your student, or it may feel intrusive, discomforting and TMI (too much information). Have that conversation with your student.
But even if you and your student decide that you will stay in touch in ways other than through social media, using some of these platforms in other ways may still be beneficial to you as a college parent long after the admissions process is over. Some colleges reach out directly to parents through these avenues, and others may not, but there are opportunities and reasons to stay current through the use of social media.
- Many colleges and universities have established accounts specifically for the parents of their students. They share information about campus activities, opportunities to be involved, and helpful advice. Some even post reminders of upcoming deadlines for things such as housing deposits or tuition payments. Taking advantage of these sources will help you stay involved in a healthy way with the school.
- Some schools have established Chat Rooms, Facebook pages, or Pinterest Boards specifically designed to help parents connect with other parents.
- Staying in touch through these sources will help create a sense of community with other parents. You may have opportunities to connect with others with similar interests and/or concerns, or others living in the same area.
- The University of California Santa Cruz established a live chat event which gathered college experts to answer parent questions and concerns. Parents could participate in real time to learn more about the college. More colleges may begin to offer webinars or similar events.
- Many colleges post events or videos of events through Youtube. This is an ideal way to stay in touch with what is happening so that you can discuss events with your student – encourage your student to attend a particular event or find out what he thought of an event.
- Colleges with Facebook or Instagram accounts often post many pictures of campus events. It’s simply fun to see what students are doing.
- Many colleges have online versions of their student newspaper or other publications. This is a great way to stay informed about life on campus.
If the social media habit is part of your life, there are productive ways to use it to stay in touch and informed once your student is in college. Think beyond admissions and beyond hovering to connect comfortably with your student’s world without risking the helicopter label.