I just got back from St. Louis and the annual conference of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC). More
than any other topic, the sessions offered for admissions officers were
about reaching out to students using new media, social networking, Iphone apps, etc. And there were dozens of exhibitors in attendance selling their services to help colleges take advantage of those mediums.
I think new technologies offer huge opportunities for colleges to communicate with students quickly and cheaply, but more importantly, honestly. Some colleges are using the technology but missing the opportunity. Here's an example.
Visit the admissions section of the Boston University website and you'll find this video, "Write an Essay That Stands Out." It's 2 minutes and 20 seconds of polished, over–produced video with quick
cuts, background music, and ultimately not that much advice. It's the exact opposite of what they want kids to do with their essays, which is to be themselves without trying too hard.
How much easier, cheaper, and more effective would it have been to have 2 or 3 members of their admissions staff just speak openly and honestly to students in that video? They could have talked about some of their favorite essays they've read, and which stories are over–used and worn out. They could have given some practical, encouraging advice to students. And they could have used it as an opportunity to connect with students and show the real people behind the normally faceless admissions committee.
It's clear that new media is going to be a part of the college search and application process whether colleges want it to be or not. I hope more colleges use it as an opportunity to be more personal rather than more commercial.