There have been a lot of cautionary tales about how what you post onf Facebook can affect your chance of getting a job or even getting into college, but it turns out that high school students are turning the tables and checking out the Facebook pages of colleges as part of their decision-making process. Although Websites and brochures can tell part of the story, Facebook can provide a deeper insight into what campus life is really like. A study from Uversity found that about two-thirds of graduating seniors from the class of 2012 used social media to research colleges. Facebook led the pack of social media venues research at 57%, YouTube was at 42% and twitter was at 18%.

Social media has become such an important part of the college admissions process that there is even an annual ranking of the Top 100 Social Media Colleges by StudentAdvisor.com.  One of the colleges that soared in its ranking from the 2012 to 2013 SudentAdvisor.com list was Duke University. It jumped up thirty-nine notches to number five in the rankings. How did Duke achieve this? It seems that campus-wide participation made the difference. As part of a promotional program, on one day, more than 1,000 online contributions – photos, videos and messages – were submitted by the Duke community worldwide.

Not every college can get 1,000 submissions on a single day, but community participation, not just informational posts from college admissions groups, helps fuel what high school students are looking to social media for – not just an academic experience, but a personal and social experience. For students, knowing that a college is a good fit for them on a personal level is an important aspect of choosing a college – and is as critical to them as the “academic fit” may be to the college.

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