This post also appeared in the Augustana College publication, Acknowledge.
In admissions, we often describe our work as “trying to get inside the head of a 17-year-old.” However, when I began in 1992, I couldn’t have foreseen a day like today and a resource like Facebook, which really does allow us to get inside the thoughts of students thinking about Augustana.
When our admissions office experimented with the launch of a Class of 2015 Facebook page, we saw modest participation. Since those early efforts we’ve expanded the pages to include parents, and now see robust and enthusiastic participation. Patterns among deciding and committed students provide insight into what’s on their minds, and almost in real time.
Through our review of questions asked on the Class of 2016 page, we were able to tailor communication to more effectively address questions at the right times. In response to questions about housing selection and parking, we launched a very successful series of videos featuring Gus, our mascot, on the Class of 2017 page. And based on the questions last year, we’ll expand the videos for the Class of 2018 to better serve our students during the transition.
While surveying comments on the Class Facebook pages has certainly helped us communicate better with students, the real benefit is to witness in real time the enthusiasm students have for Augustana. It is through these posts that many of our future students stake their preliminary claim in the Augustana experience. In the past few days, I’ve read of the dreams of veterinarians, speech pathologists, accountants, political scientists, teachers, neuroscientists and aspiring Ph.Ds.
I’ve read of a student looking for roommates in search of a “coherent color scheme.” There are enthusiastic posts about the LGBT community on campus. There are all-state tuba players, bassoonists and a student insistent upon starting a club marching band! Student-athletes in all of our 23 programs post about their excitement to be a Viking.
The posts reveal aspirations of leadership in and outside the classroom, desire to build community, find a roommate and be a part of something big. Facebook provides us with a way to literally read the thoughts of the students seriously considering Augustana, in a way we never could have imagined 20 years ago.
W. Kent Barnds a.k.a. @bowtieadmission