College Search Goes Online for "Constantly Connected" Students

Maguire Associates/Fastweb Survey Reveals Social Media Rules for "Peer Review" of Campus Social Life, Admissions Websites Reign as Top College Information Sources

Sep 26, 2012, 10:00 ET from Maguire Associates

CONCORD, Mass., Sept. 26, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- As part of the first generation to grow up online, the Class of 2016 has social media savvy. But don't give up the website yet! Facebook is not the king when it comes to researching colleges and universities; prospective students continue to put college websites at the top of the list, according to the 2012 Annual College Decision Impact Survey from Maguire Associates and The organizations queried over 4,300 high school seniors about the factors that influence where they apply to school, including websites and social media.

"As prospective students have more online resources to use, colleges and universities need more sophisticated online strategies for communicating with them at every touch point," said Kim A. Reid, Vice President for Research Operations at Maguire Associates. "Success here rests on understanding how and when students use the web and social media and then prioritizing institutional efforts to meet those needs.  It's all part of a much larger digital strategy."

Websites are the "Holy Grail"

Even though students are constantly connected to social media, they're bypassing these resources in favor of information aggregators, student review sites, and colleges' own websites for most of their initial information gathering. In addition to, they're gravitating to sites like for their initial searches. From there, they are clicking to colleges' individual websites for a "deeper dive." For example, 7 out of 10 use these sites to learn more about academic offerings, fees, and admissions deadlines. "College websites remain the Holy Grail for institutional information, followed closely by printed materials," said Ms. Reid.

"Just as college admissions staff and scholarship providers are increasingly screening the online presence of applicants, applicants are increasingly looking online to read what other students write about the colleges," said Mark Kantrowitz, Publisher of "9 out of every 10 survey respondents use Facebook and YouTube and about half use independent websites like the College Board and College Prowler," he added.

While reaching out to prospective students, however, colleges must monitor their digital footprint beyond their own websites. "Institutions may not always be able to control the messages conveyed online, especially where student reviews are included, but it is important to be aware of what's being said in order to challenge misinformation," Ms. Reid added.

The Social in Social Media

To be sure, students are "always on" social media, with nearly one-third reporting they are "constantly connected" to Facebook and 36 percent visiting YouTube daily, and this is spilling over into their research on the broader experience that colleges offer. For example, two out of three (65 percent) prefer to go to colleges' Facebook pages for information about social life, and nearly half (42 percent) look there for news and events. They also want to "see" the institutions for themselves, with 50 percent viewing photos of colleges and universities on Facebook.

Authenticity and peer-to-peer interaction matter when it comes to social media. For instance, three out of four (75 percent) respondents want to connect to a current student on Facebook, while only 10 percent want to connect to faculty this way. Most respondents also say that admissions pages on social media are not influencing their decisions to apply, although nearly a quarter of them note that "higher quality [social media content] makes me more interested."

Among additional findings, these social media savvy students also report that they have:

  • Searched for scholarships using social media or networking sites (66 percent)
  • Watched a YouTube video created by a school (57 percent)
  • Become a friend or fan of a college or university on a social networking site (49 percent)

For additional information about the 2012 College Decision Impact Survey, or to arrange an interview with Maguire Associates, please contact Erin Vadala of Warner Communications at 978/468-3076 or

Data collection for the 2012 College Decision Impact Survey took place in April 2012, and all participants were Fastweb members at the time of the survey. Maguire Associates in collaboration with Fastweb has been collecting data annually from college-bound high school seniors since 2009. This data provides information about national and regional attitudes regarding the college search process, priorities, and opinions about current issues.

About Maguire Associates

Maguire Associates is a research-based consulting firm that has served more than 400 educational clients – from colleges and universities to independent and public schools, consortia, and government organizations focused on education. For over 28 years, the firm has applied innovations in market research, analysis, and predictive modeling to help clients understand the dynamics of past performance, apply insightful knowledge to sound decision-making, and attain desired outcomes. For more information, visit

About Fastweb

Fastweb is the nation's recognized leader in helping students pay for school by providing scholarship and financial aid information as well as jobs and internships.  One out of three college-bound seniors uses the site, and more than 50 million* members have benefitted from Fastweb's information and services.  As the oldest and most popular free online scholarship matching service, the Fastweb database has more than 1.5 million scholarships totaling over $3.4 billion.  (*9 million are active users of the site.)

For media inquiries, please contact:
Erin Vadala, Warner Communications
978/468-3076 or

SOURCE Maguire Associates