Are Liberal Arts Colleges and Students More or Less Social? (New Research)

The Liberal Arts. According to Wikipedia, the “liberal arts are those subjects that in classical antiquity were considered essential for a free citizen to study. GrammarRhetoric and Logic were the core liberal arts.”

While some may say the liberal arts needs an upgrade for the 21st century (I’m looking at you Michael Staton) others would argue in this time of hyper-digital-social-mobile-media-extravenganza there is nothing this world needs more than rhetoric and logic.

Are Liberal Arts Colleges Up to Speed?

While colleges have been portrayed as “woefully behind the technology times” I believe (and the research shows) their adoption of social media has been quick and generally full of smart tactics. One of these smart tactics we recommend is that colleges create admitted student communities to welcome their incoming classes.

Earlier this month, we published a graph depicting the Facebook Adoption rate of private universities in the U.S. We looked at which schools had a school wide page,  School Sponsored Class of 2016 Page or group, admissions department page, and/or third party Facebook pages or groups.


Out of the 20 Liberal Arts Institutions we researched, only 8 of 22 or (36%) of the colleges had started their own community for their incoming classes, which is well below the average of 50% for all colleges nationwide.

10 of the communities were set up with Facebook Pages and 12 of them were Facebook Groups. Keep in mind, however, not all of these presences were created by the colleges. A third party, typically with some agenda to hijack the school’s brand and sell services to students, created half of the communities we analyzed.

Should I Create a Facebook Page or a Group for Class of 2017?

Although this question has already been covered in our previous research, there are advantages and disadvantages to both, our research shows that Groups are more successful than Pages at manufacturing engagement. We used comments to gauge engagement, and found that the average amount of  comments on a post in a Group significantly outnumbered that of a Page.

Group vs Page EngagementAlthough this engagement data shows a slightly higher response rate for unofficial presences, our data shows that conversations differs. Our full results will be published later in a whitepaper.

Most Popular Posts in Class of 2016 Pages/Groups

While some might argue liberal arts students are different than other audiences, we saw a similar breakdown of the most popular posts by theme compared to past data. See the breakdown below for what is most talked about in these groups.

While our previous research showed slightly different trends – Excitement, Major, Introduction, and Roommate still made the top 5. It was interesting to note that Hometown did not show up in these categories, as did the other research.

This absence can be credited to a cyclical shift in conversation topic, as most active users have already introduced themselves, and students are trying to find a roommate with similar interests rather than discuss their respective geographical locations. Additionally, those living in similar geographic regions have likely met.

  • Nicole Hart

    the research shows colleges adoption of social media has been quick and generally full of smart tactics, not just colleges i think but today’s generation, right?