College Recruitment and Web 2.0

08Jan07

Ars Technica recently posted an article noting that prospective students are expecting more out of their college recruitment process than ever before.

Students want to feel like they are being incorporated into the campus
community, and many of them therefore wanted personal contact with
faculty and already-enrolled students, not just with admissions
counselors. 83 percent of the high-schoolers surveyed said that they
would read a blog written by a faculty member, while 63 percent would
read one written by a current student, and 57 percent would like to
create a personalized profile page about themselves on the school’s
website.

While I agree with a number of the suggestions, especially the student and faculty blogs, if I were an administrator I would proceed with extreme caution. Not just because Web 2.0 is new and scary and different, but because of the nature of Web 2.0 itself.

While the age of user-created content is undoubtedly a good thing, utilizing it in a college recruitment setting takes power from the universities, something I doubt they would approve of. Imagine, if you were in charge of your school’s image and didn’t have the reputation of Harvard, Yale, or Duke, would you really want to entrust that image to the masses? Especially when talking about individualized web pages on a school’s server, things could get unruly very very fast.

Especially since the data shows that students still want to receive information via snail mail, I don’t believe that this survey reflects a growing desire for technological use in the recruitment process. Instead, I think that this shows students want to exploit every opportunity to get into their school of choice be they traditional or high-tech opportunities. Raising the bar to apply for a school would presumably weed out more students, giving the ones who really want to get in a better chance.

To sum up, I do believe more communication between the faculty/students and the prospective students has the potential to be a good thing, but it involves an inherent loss of control on the university’s part, so we won’t see drastic shifts soon, but probably witness a few new ideas come into play each year. Also, I think the survey would’ve been the same if students were offered simply more options instead of more Web 2.0 focused options.

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