When it comes to earning one’s degree online, the convenience factor is clear. Online students can purchase eBooks, attend courses, have discussions with their classmates and instructors, submit assignments, and even watch their commencement ceremony – all from the comfort of their own computer chair.
Therefore, it makes sense that prospective online students also have the ability to conduct a thorough search for the right school without ever having to leave home.
While there are many sites that allow prospective students to sort through schools that offer the specific online degree they’re looking for, the sites rarely allow the prospective online student to connect with the existing student body. But doing so is a great way to get authentic opinions – both positive and negative – about the school, along with answers to questions about things like admissions or financial aid processes, or even see what a typical online student’s day is like.
According to a Digital Trends article, social media was used as a resource for two thirds of the class of 2012 while searching for their school. A university’s Facebook page is usually full of opinions from the current student body, for better or worse. It can be a great place for prospective students to gauge alumni and current students’ satisfaction levels with their academic or administrative experience. The kinds of questions, complaints, and praises they are posting to their school – and how quick and effective the responses are – can reveal a lot.
While most schools’ Facebook pages cater more to their existing student body rather than to prospective students, the moderators will usually answer questions from members of either community. So prospective students should not hesitate to use this resource themselves and ask any question they have.
The YouTube channels of many online universities are another great way to get a real sense of the community. Many feature videos that go into detail about services offered to everyone from disabled students to alumni. You can also find real students and alumni talking about their experience at the school and giving genuine positive feedback. For a wider range of opinions, check the comments below the videos, or do a keyword search within YouTube for videos on other channels about the school.
Curious about how alumni of a school are doing professionally? LinkedIn is a great social media site for this information. However, this info is only visible if you list the school as your alma mater in your profile – so it’s more for students and alumni than for prospective students.
These social media resources are out there, so if you’re a prospective student, make sure that along with the school’s Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn pages, you check hashtags of your school of interest on Twitter, and look up their Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+ sites along with their blog.
Just remember that each student’s experience is individual and some may have biases either way. So, like cereal to breakfast, social media should be just a part of your complete college search.