A few years ago, I was sitting awkwardly in a straight back chair pulled from the dining room into the living room of my graduate professor’s home. Around me, squeezed onto a couch, an arm chair, the floor, and three other dining room chairs sat 10 of my colleagues, all of us new to the MFA graduate program, nine were new to Iowa having just traveled to the Midwest from the East, West, and North. We were gathered at our professor’s home for a meet and greet and all of us exuded anxiety from our pores as we looked one another over without trying to look like we were looking one another over. All of us were bursting with questions about what this next big leap in higher education would be like and each of us must have wondered how we were going to connect with one another, if not on a personal level at least on a professional level, considering that the cliché of writers being introverts tends to be true
I knew why I picked this university, this program, in this state, and in this city. I was lucky because I was a native Iowan and knew the university, the state, and the city. However, even with my native sensibilities breeding a comforting familiarity with my surroundings, I did not know all that much about my program, surprisingly. Most of what I knew about the program had been pieced together through online searches. Before I applied and even after I was accepted, I had a lot of anxious introvert energy tied up with all of my questions about what to expect from this program. Not satisfied by the university’s website or the program’s page, I asked my Facebook friends what they knew or better yet, who they knew who might be able to offer up any kind of information regarding their experiences about the program. Did I even know anyone who might know someone who attended this MFA program or any other MFA program for that matter? For my new colleagues, many who had moved across many states to be there, they must have had even more bubbling questions.
It turns out, I did have a few Facebook friends who knew someone who attended the program—the bonus of living in a college town. Although I was a part of the LinkedIn community at the time, I didn’t think about researching the program on LinkedIn. At the time, LinkedIn didn’t even have University Pages where the university could utilize the social media’s platform as a staging arena offering up resources for those interested in attending the university or those who might be interested in specific program details of the university. Last fall, the roll-out of LinkedIn University Pages set the stage for colleges and universities to provide in one meeting area, a virtual meet and greet session that is ongoing. Interested students who are not ready to travel in order to visit potential colleges and universities can learn more about the college programs. Interested students who are trying to narrow down their choices to a handful of universities can virtually get to know the faculty who will have the most influence on the students’ career paths.
LinkedIn University Pages can highlight faculty accomplishments or even publish a faculty written post pertinent to their area of expertise, lending a voice and a relatable humanness to an otherwise sterile institution, all of which are any university department’s Why Come Here 101— the reason why students pick one college over another. They want to know who is going to be teaching them, who might be their future mentors, and who they will get to network with and through in order to advance their careers.
LinkedIn University Pages can be the staging area for resources for incoming students who already know they are attending the university. If your institution has questions that are frequently asked, why not post the answers on LinkedIn so the students have already gone through part of the orientation process before they even arrive. Keep the students up to date on current events and opportunities around campus, which not only provides them with useful information but are also a great way to market your institution to potential new students who might be searching online, asking friends and family what they know. As is often the case for older students seeking a graduate degree, the students might be networking through their colleagues on LinkedIn, asking questions, looking everyone over and wondering, how do I accomplish what I want? How do I get there? Where do I go from here? Who can help me find the right university graduate program to get me there? If a college or university taps into LinkedIn’s powerful social networking, they can use LinkedIn’s University Page to highlight testimonials from graduates of a program. Potential students are looking for personal experiences and accomplishments from former graduates. Those who have already walked the path of higher education can answer the questions of the many who are searching for a college or university. So, this is what I can accomplish if I go here. I can imagine myself as her. Graduates and faculty get to highlight their achievements on a powerful career networking site, which are the university’s achievements as well, and potential new students get to imagine those same achievements as their own, inspiring them to make that leap into higher education and apply.
Using the LinkedIn University Pages should be a must for every digital and social media higher education strategist looking to connect graduate stories with what the university has to offer to new students.