Starting college can be a crazy experience — you’re in a new place, meeting new people, and desperately trying to balance overwhelming schoolwork with a social life. Social media has become a huge part of the college experience, but it goes beyond just Instagramming pictures from last night’s party, closely monitoring your crush’s Snapchat story, or scrolling Facebook to procrastinate.
Frankly, even though some people see social media as a “waste of time” or a guilty habit, I believe it’s actually one of the most powerful ways to connect and engage with your college experience.
If you use social media strategically, you can always be up to date with what’s happening on campus, be aware of all the best events happening in your city, save money, organize group projects like a pro, and develop a great understanding of what’s happening in your field of study.
Because every school is different, I unfortunately can’t give you a set list of 25 specific accounts to follow — you’re going to have to do a little searching on your own. But it’s worth doing, for sure.
As a grad student, I knew that the time it took me to find my school’s accounts was completely worth it when I started saving hundreds of dollars on textbooks, finding unexpected and fun things to do on a Tuesday evening, and being the first in line for special meals at the dining hall!
Official College Accounts
Let’s start with the basics. Does your school have an official Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and/or YouTube account?
Some campuses are better at social media than others. Vanderbilt, for example, has an incredible list of 10 social media accounts that are all updated regularly. Not only are these official accounts great ways to find out what’s being accomplished by your college’s researchers and Alumni, these pages are often full of great resources for new students leading up to move-in day!
Even better, if you have a question about the school, chances are you’ll get a faster response if you contact a representative through one of their social media accounts.
These accounts are almost always visible on your college’s official website. Try looking on the “Contact Us” page or at the top or bottom of most other pages for social media account icons.
Other Key Official Accounts
Following your college’s main social media accounts is great for broad-based information, but what about information that’s more targeted to your individual interests?
Try doing a quick search for the following accounts on Facebook and Twitter (keep in mind that if you find one account for an organization or department there will likely be several cross-posts to accounts on other platforms):
- Your College’s Student Association — These accounts are great for finding out about campus events and for entering campus contests!
- Your Department/Faculty — These accounts can keep you in the loop about department-specific deadlines and events.
- Businesses located on campus (such as the library, the bookstore, the dining hall, or a student lounge) — This is one of the best ways to know about sales, dining hall specials, special events, or a change in business hours.
- Sports Teams — Get quick updates on how your school’s teams are faring throughout the season, always know if there are any big games coming up, and be aware of any spirit days.
- Extra-curricular Clubs or Teams — Following the social media accounts of a club, team, or group is a great way to get a sense of their vibe before you join. Looking back on posts from previous years can also give you a better understanding of what it is that they do, and what you can expect!
Unofficial Facebook Groups
Unofficial Facebook groups are honestly some of the most valuable resources out there for students. Each school has slightly different groups available and some will definitely be more valuable than others.
I fully believe that textbook buy and sell groups are some of the best inventions ever — textbooks are reaching unreal prices, and even if your bookstore will buy your book back from you at the end of the year, you’ll rarely make more than a few dollars. Textbook groups allow upperclassmen to sell their used textbooks directly to incoming students for a fair price – more than they would make from selling their book back to the bookstore, but not as much as a textbook would cost brand new! Remember to be safe, and always meet up with people buying or selling textbooks in a public location!
Most schools will also have a Facebook group for each graduating class (maybe separated by faculty at larger schools). Search for this by using your college’s (and/or faculty’s) name with “Class of 2020”. This will be invaluable to you as you navigate each year of your college experience, and especially when it comes time for planning graduation festivities!
Other great unofficial Facebook group that your school may have include a general buy and sell page (great for like-new clothes or cheap furniture at the end of the year ), ride shares (ideal for schools that aren’t located in a major city), interest groups, and residence floors (one of the best ways to make connections with people who live in your dorm!)
Getting to Know Your City
Your academics are a key part of your college life, but so is getting to know a new city. Following local accounts is one of the best ways to learn about hidden gems around your city (including restaurants, parks, and events), and staying up-to-date on local news can keep you feeling connected with your new home.
Try searching for social media accounts for the following:
- Local News Outlets — Whether it’s a radio station, television channel, or newspaper, these social media accounts are the best way to casually follow the local happenings, and to be aware of any festivals or events happening throughout your city.
- Businesses (think restaurants, coffee shops, entertainment venues, and stores) — Many independent businesses use their social media regularly to update customers on sales, events, new menu items, operating hours, or other promotions.
- Transit — Following your city’s transit social media account might seem like the most boring thing in the world – and it is, until there’s a significant delay or an unplanned change in your bus route. If something unexpected happens, these accounts will be the first to let you know how best to alter your travel plans.
- Official City Pages — Many cities and towns will have social media accounts that regularly retweet or share social media posts from other local pages. These accounts are some of the best ways to learn about new businesses or city-wide events – it’s actually how I found my favorite coffee shop for late-night studying.
Of course, social media is meant to be fun — and as a student, there are all kinds of ways to make sure that you’re using it in ways that help you to enjoy your life more! There’s likely at least one new Snapchat filter that you can use based on your location, your school may have specific hashtags that can get your posts noticed, and there are tons of hilarious Facebook pages and Twitter accounts dedicated to #collegeproblems or specific majors that are full of inside jokes and relatable complaints.
You may also want to repurpose old social media accounts in new ways! For example, Pinterest is an amazing tool for finding cheap and healthy recipes, Tumblr is full of “studyblrs” (blogs dedicated to improving study habits) and YouTube has thousands of videos that can help you study for any subject.
National Student Resources
It’s also great to look for the social media accounts of national organizations that are out there to make life better for you during this stage of your life. Try looking for social media accounts that offer support tailored for students in your state/province, country, or area of study. These accounts are great for letting you know about scholarship opportunities, contests, important news articles, resources, and more!
Some accounts to get you started:
- Student Life Network in Canada has a huge contest every year offering incredible prizes to students, but also regularly posts great deals for students and important Canadian resources for education (you can find them on almost every form of social media here)
- Federal Student Aid in the U.S. runs social media accounts dedicated to helping you survive the crazy world of student loans (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube)
- National Union of Students in the UK is made up of representatives from over 600 universities, and is dedicated to improving the student experience across the UK. Their social media pages highlight work/volunteer opportunities, relevant news stories, and available discounts. (Twitter, Facebook)
- Student Edge in Australia posts tons of information about available student discounts, career tips, school information, and competitions with great prizes (various social media accounts found here)
Must-Have Accounts for Academics
I’ve listed a ton of accounts and social media platforms above, and I understand that it can be overwhelming to look at all of those options at once! If you’re easily overwhelmed online, try starting slow, and adding in a few accounts every couple of weeks.
If you’re hesitant to do that, or if you really want to keep your social media use limited (which is totally fair!), the three accounts I’d suggest you have and maintain regularly probably aren’t a surprise:
- Facebook — Look, I know there are problems with Facebook, but nearly everyone has it and that makes it an invaluable resource when you’re starting out in college. Add anyone you make a connection with in class or socializing (you can always put them on a limited Facebook list and keep them from seeing your posts if you’re worried about privacy). The reason you add them is so that if it’s 3 AM the night before a midterm and you’re missing an entire lecture’s worth of notes, you have someone to turn to. Also, you’re networking for future jobs here.
- Twitter — You can use Twitter effectively without ever posting a single Tweet – following accounts from around your campus and city is the best way to passively stay up-to-date with all of the events that are going on around you.
- Google Drive — I didn’t mention it above, but Google Drive is an absolute lifesaver for students. If you don’t already have a Google Drive account, take the time to set one up and to familiarize yourself with the features it offers. Tasks like group projects or writing papers on multiple devices will be so much easier if you do!
I know it seems totally counter-intuitive to increase your social media use when you’re at school, but if you’re able to strike a balance with your social media use and studying, I can guarantee that you’ll be unstoppable.
What social media accounts do you find yourself following or using when you’re at school? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
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