How Colleges Are Using SnapChat to Connect with Students

You're likely well aware that social media is playing a growing role in the college admission game. And the newest player is SnapChat, an app the both students and colleges can use to their benefit.

Are you familiar with SnapChat and how it’s used not only by your students but the colleges and universities they’re considering? Given the photo-sharing app’s enormously popularity, you should be.

People digest visual information up to 60,000 times faster than written information. This might be one reason for the meteoric rise of SnapChat among teens and young adults. SnapChat, a social media app, lets users send images and videos to followers that then disappear after a short amount of time (no longer than 10 seconds). According to a recent study, 77% of college students use the app at least once a day. In the past several years, young adults have left Facebook for other social media platforms, SnapChat being just one example.

Students aren’t the only ones turning to the app either; many higher ed institutions have already signed-up for SnapChat as well, predominantly using SnapChat to reach three audiences:

  • Current students
  • Prospective students
  • Prospective athletes

One of the most vocal proponents and a relatively early adopter of SnapChat (for schools, at least) is Tennessee Wesleyan College (TWC). Since the school joined SnapChat, it has used the app as a vehicle to engage current students and prospective students.

Among the school’s first acts was to create a scavenger hunt for prospective students attending an orientation day. TWC showed its followers images of its mascot at various spots on campus.

Along the same vein, TWC has used the account to entertain students. This year, to coincide with Valentine’s Day, the school made five homemade valentines, hid them throughout campus, and then sent followers a “Snap” of the locations.

Another example of community building comes from Eastern Washington University (EWU). EWU set out to use SnapChat to portray the student fan experience from the perspective of the fans themselves. The school used the app during a football playoff season in conjunction with SnapChat’s “Stories” feature, which strings together snaps from events into one central location.

The University of Kansas has also used the app to reach students interested in the schools’ sports team. The school provides mock interviews with their student-athletes, and generally uses SnapChat to give fans a behind-the-scenes look at college sports.

Nonetheless, SnapChat isn’t just for coaxing smiles out of students. Because so many young adults are using the app, it makes it a perfect tool to send out campus news. One benefit of using the app this way is that it sends the information directly to a prospective student or current student’s phone, which they are more likely to see than an e-mail.

The University of Houston has used SnapChat to keep students updated on campus news. Last year, the campuses shut down because of icy roads. Followers of the University’s account received a Snap. Other schools have used it to send out reminders for important deadlines for class registration and scholarships.

Recently, some universities have begun using SnapChat as another way to reach prospective athletes. In August of this year, the rules governing whether athletic recruiters could use SnapChat to communicate with student-athletes changed. Coaches of all Division I sports, including football, track & field, and swimming & diving, now have the ability to use SnapChat to communicate with prospects.

Kyle Bruce, assistant sports information director and social media coordinator for EWU told TIME that his school uses SnapChat because it has a more personal feel, and that student-athletes are more likely to receive the message.

This sentiment is shared by other recruiters. Hernando Planells, assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for women’s basketball at Duke University, told The Chronicle of Higher Education that SnapChat was among the best ways to reach prospective students.

“Because there’s so many different avenues to communicate with them, you’re just hoping the one you’re using connects with them,” Planells told The Chronicle.

What does all of this mean for high school guidance counselors? As crazy as it sounds, you might want to encourage high schoolers to be on SnapChat, so that they can connect with colleges through a social media platform they are already comfortable with. Additionally, encourage students to interact with schools on SnapChat rather than just using it to text their friends or post selfies. You’ll be amazed how excited they can become about a college when they receive messages tailored to the communication methods that matter to them.

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