Admissions

Study: More Underrepresented Students Rely on Social Media for College Search

Underrepresented student groups are more likely to rely on social media channels in their college search, according to a new report from Royall & Company, a division of EAB. The survey of 5,580 college-bound students found that first-generation, low-income and minority students were more likely to learn about a school on sites such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, and more likely to interact with college and universities on social media.

Among the findings:

  • 27 percent of first-generation students said they discovered a college or university on social media, compared to 17 percent of non-first-generation students;
  • 25 percent of Hispanic/Latino students and 24 percent of African American students said they discovered a college or university on social media, compared to 16 percent of Caucasian students;
  • 24 percent of students from households with incomes of $60K or less said they discovered a college or university on social media, compared to 13 percent of students from households with incomes of $120K or more;
  • First-generation students are seven percentage points more likely to "like" a post and five percentage points more likely to share content from a college or university on Facebook; and
  • First-generation students are more likely to "like" a post or share content posted by a college or university on Snapchat.

Conversely, under-represented students are less likely to rely on information sources "more personal in nature" for their college search:

  • 61 percent of Hispanic/Latino respondents and 67 percent of African American respondents rely on parents and other family members for college information, versus 81 percent of Caucasian respondents; 
  • 50 percent of first-generation students rely on friends already in college, versus 60 percent of non-first-generation students; and
  • 63 percent of students from low-income households go on campus visits, compared to 83 percent of high-income students.

"These findings suggest that under-represented, college-bound students are less likely to consider their friends and family as a resource and do not have the opportunity to visit schools during their college search as often as their peers," said Pamela Kiecker Royall, head of research at Royall & Company, in a statement. "They seem to be turning to social media to fill this information gap, which means there is an opportunity for colleges and universities to modify their social media efforts to provide students the information they need, where they are looking for it."

For most students, however, e-mail and mail are still the primary sources of college information. Overall, 78 percent of prospective students said they research college options through the mail or e-mail they receive from institutions, while just 33 percent said they get information by following a college on social media.

The full report is available on the EAB site.

About the Author

About the author: Rhea Kelly is executive editor for Campus Technology. She can be reached at rkelly@1105media.com.

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