Engagement Matters, Especially for Out-of-State Students {New Data}

Much academic research indicates that student engagement is an important factor in academic success.  Our Schools App communities are designed to help students learn about a prospective university and meet other incoming students.  These connections are an important piece in helping students to find fit and build a peer support group, ultimately influencing retention rates. We wanted to learn more about how out-of-state versus in-state students use Schools App during the admissions process.

We analyzed student engagement at 36 private institutions and 37 public institutions between 4/1/13 and 8/31/13, calculating a raw engagement score based on status updates, comments, time on site, days active, server requests, and sessions.

At Private Institutions, Out-of-State Students Are More Engaged than In-State Students

For private universities, out-of-state students were more engaged on Schools App than in-state students.  This demonstrates how out-of-state students tend to seek out more information about the school, especially to understand the campus culture.  Often, out-of-state students don’t have the same opportunities as in-state students to visit campus or attend admitted student days; Schools App was an alternative means to engage with the campus community.

Friendship Networks are Larger at Private Universities

Another indicator of engagement is the number of friends each student makes before enrolling. Indeed, building a strong peer network is essential to long term student success. We found that users from private institutions made an average of 24 friends, compared to public institution users, who have an average of 21 friends.

Also, interestingly, we found that students at private institutions make more friends than those at public universities.  One reason may be that students at private institutions may have fewer existing friends, since the high financial cost often drives more students to attend public universities than private institutions.  Students at private colleges are therefore more motivated to build a peer network prior to setting foot on campus.

At Public Universities, Out-of-State Students Make Fewer Friends than In-State Students

Although students at public universities made fewer friends, there was an interesting difference in the way that these students built their peer networks.  At public institutions, in-state users made an average of 23 friends, while out-of-state users only made an average of 19 friends.  This suggests that in-state users enter with a pre-existing peer network, most likely students from their geographic region.

Out-of-state students are a crucial population for many public institutions, especially for states that have a shrinking high school student population.  It is clear that out-of-state students made fewer friends at public institutions, and admissions teams must make a concerted effort to engage these students in the campus community before they start school.