MIT makes no secret that the bloggers are paid, McGann says, and a search of the blog yields several references to salaries. "MIT was a bit concerned when they first thought about paying bloggers because it would seem like we work for admissions and are brainwashing you guys with pro-MIT propaganda," wrote then-MIT student blogger Snively in 2008. "I think through various rants and raves we've proven that we don't just spew MIT propaganda."
MIT aside, the shift from campus-based tours to multi-pronged admissions strategies that include digital outreach—such as blogs, some of which have earned the undesirable name 'flogs,' or fake blogs—can lead to applicant confusion, says John Bramlette, the founder of Bramlette Consulting, an educational consultancy in Washington, D.C.
"Back when students were simply tour guides, I think it was presumed, correctly for the most part, that they were paid, but the newer roles performed by students working in admissions offices certainly muddy the waters a bit," he says, particularly when student ambassadors don't identify themselves on social media handles. "I think Twitter is uniquely ambiguous."
[Check out seven tips to get the most out of a college tour.]
At Drake University in Des Moines, student ambassadors tend to use their social media handles only for personal communications, and they know to be careful what they tweet and blog about, says Kayleigh Koester, a junior and a student ambassador.
It's clear that student ambassadors work for Drake, because all tours originate in the admissions office, Koester says, and she announces at the beginning of her tours that she works for admissions. She doesn't volunteer the fact that she's paid.
"I don't feel it necessary to make that clear," she says. "It's not the most lucrative job. You could go out there and probably, if you're a really great waitress, make a heck of a lot more tips than you do giving campus tours. You do it because you love the university, not for the money."
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