How High-School Students Use Mobile in Their College Search

Earlier this week Noel-Levitz released their series of e-expectation reports this one titlted “Mobile Browsing Behaviors and Expectations of College-Bound High School Students.”

I thought I’d give a summary and some personal commentary on their key findings in regards to mobile/social behaviors.

Mobile Browsing Behaviors

  1. Only 4% of high-school students report using a tablet device such as an iPad or Android

  1. Over 50% of high-school students have viewed a school’s web site on a mobile device
  2. Most desired mobile content includes Academic program listings, Cost/Scholarship calculators, and calendar of dates and deadlines.

It’s no surprise that as students are planning for their future they want to know what majors are available, how much will they cost, and what date do I have to turn something in if I think this school would be a good fit.

Next, they covered mobile social usage (or is it social mobile?) and they had some takeaways that were not revolutionary, but still worth sharing.

  1. Are students mobile?  – Yes, 94% use a mobile device once a week, but only 4% reported using a Tablet device.
  2. Are they social and mobile? – Yes, 76% of students use Facebook on their mobile phones.
  3. Are college’s Facebook pages super useful? – The results were mixed at best.

Why Facebook Attitudes Are Mixed

Here’s my perspective on how students rate the experience to a schools Facebook page.The results skewed a standard distribution with 44% fo students in the middle and 5% of students saying either it was a “waste of time” or “extremely valuable”.

For one, the students who found it a waste of time could have found one of those ghost town Facebook pages with autoupdating RSS feeds from PR releases.

Secondly it’s extremely difficult to target relevant content to such a wide audience on Facebook. Especially on your school-wide page you have the balance the need to speak to current students, alumni, prospective students, parents, faculty and the school-wide community.

That’s a lot of people to please, each with very different perspectives and information needs.

Information Search vs. Social Community Building

It’s important to make the distinction that this report covers high-school students “information seeking behaviors” which aren’t the best use of social media. While you can use various “social” outlets to spread information, what students (and most of us want) is to connect with other people based on similar interests and life trajectory.

Of course many higher ed professionals already understand this. Lougan Bishop did a presentation showing how social is most important during the yield stage of the recruitment funnel. Joining a true social community is a much higher commitment and typically something that occurs beyond the information/option gathering stage.

Our research has shown the true power of social networks lies in social community building to improve yield and retention by creating friendships and a place of belonging. Remember, students don’t only want to learn about your institution, they want to learn how they will fit in at your institution.