College Rankings: What’s the True Value?

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Michiko Morales

College students across the nation are gearing up to return to their respective universities. At the same time, high school seniors are also beginning the grueling process of applying to college, as schools begin to release applications for next fall.

Earlier this month, Forbes Magazine released its annual report on the top 650 colleges in America. The author, Michael Noer, ranked the undergraduate schools based on educational outcomes, not reputation. His methodology included compiling results based on five general categories: post-graduate success (32.5%), student satisfaction (27.5%), student debt (17.5%), four-year graduation rate (11.25%) and academic success (11.25%).

We wondered if these top schools were equally savvy at social media, so we looked into it., a college review website, has a list of the “Top 100 Social Media Colleges.” According to them, Harvard University beat out Johns Hopkins for the #1 spot in social media presence, though it’s ranked as #6 on the Forbes list. The Top 100 social media list rankings took into account each school’s population, as well as other metrics, such as the number and influence of followers, to gauge overall reach and effectiveness.

While was informative, we thought we’d dig a little deeper on the Forbes’ top 10 colleges’ social media activities by using Infegy’s social media monitoring and analytics tool, Social Radar (full disclosure: Infegy is a client). As we thought might be the case, our findings didn’t quite match Forbes‘ or StudentAdvisor’s rankings. We agree with on one thing – Harvard dominated the other schools as #1 in social media activity with the highest number of mentions in the past 30 days. However, Columbia University came in a close second, unlike both the Forbes and lists, which shows that although Johns Hopkins may have more followers and fans, people are engaged in more chatter about Columbia.

Here’s a list of how the Forbes top 10 schools stacked up against each other socially:

*Note: metrics include the number of mentions and the average monthly percentage that each school was mentioned in ALL conversations about colleges.

1.  Harvard University – 835,929 mentions, .65%

2.  Columbia University – 732,390 mentions, .63%

3.  Yale University – 441,905 mentions; .29%

4.  Stanford University – 373,260; .34%

5.  University of Chicago – 109,418 mentions; .090%

6.  Princeton University – 52,752 mentions; .049%

7.  Pomona College – 41,2321 mentions; .11%

8.  Williams College – 38,255 mentions; .038%

9.  Swarthmore College – 34,220 mentions; .029%

10.  United States Military Academy – 33,435; .033%

When comparing a quantitative versus qualitative analysis of the social media rankings of these schools, it is clear that it’s not the number of fans following your social media channels, but the quality of those fans – how much they engage with your school by mentioning you in their blogs, Timeline and tweets, and responding to your posts.

How important do you think social media savviness is for colleges? Do you think students can be influenced by colleges with a large social media presence?

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Gabriel Marketing Group