Mobilizing Higher Ed Admissions

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Each year, TargetX and Chegg publish the only research study in higher education focused solely on how students use, and are influenced by, social media and mobile technology throughout their college search. The study has been conducted since 2012 and provides trended data on digital and social usage, and more than 1,900 high school seniors and college freshman completed the survey in October 2015. Two big takeaways from The 2016 Social Admissions Report are the growing importance of mobile in the college research process, as well as the increased fragmentation of social media networks.


Five years ago, social media was the hot new thing. Today, it’s mobility. Four in five students have visited a college website on a mobile device and 12% have even completed an application through mobile. Your institution’s website is the first marketing touchpoint to attract and engage prospective students and is a key element of the discovery phase of their college search. Your website must be mobile-friendly from recruitment through enrollment. Take a look at your mobile user experience through each stage of the college selection process and then develop a plan for continuous improvement. 

The study also noted some stats on mobile browsing versus mobile apps. One in five students have downloaded a native app during their college research process. Mobile apps tend to be used more during the decision phase of the college search process rather than discovery. Apps can accelerate student engagement with your institution once they’ve demonstrated interest, such as submitting an application. However, we suggest that you make sure your mobile website experience is in a good place before you decide to tackle an app. 


Social media usage in the college search process has greatly increased over the last few years, but it’s also become highly fragmented and mobile. One in two surveyed students used more than five platforms during college research and 89% access social platforms from mobile. Here are some other key stats: 

  • One in two students have used social media when deciding where to enroll
  • Four in five students say a social media conversation influenced their enrollment decisions
  • 61% have liked or followed a college in their consideration set
  • Four in five students have watched a video from a college

Top social networks for general usage include Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. In this year’s report, Instagram and Snapchat increased by 17 percentage points, while Facebook has declined three percentage points. 

However, visual-first platforms (such as YouTube and Instagram) were used more during the college research process. Facebook isn’t dead, but video and visual-first platforms continue to gain traction. This age group understands intuitively how to filter in authentic, brand-heavy messaging. Make sure your social content strategy is well thought-out and intentional. Recruit social ambassadors to curate the content and make students your story.

These are just a few highlights from The 2016 Social Admissions Report. For more quick details, download the 2016 Social Admissions Report Infographic.

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