Prospective college students can spend hours on a road trip or combing different websites to learn about schools, but a newer, faster option has emerged.
Colleges and prospective students are hopping on the social video bandwagon to catch each other's attention. Students can get a glimpse of an Oregon State University fashion show, a business school reunion at Stanford University or statues at Xavier University through Vine.
Since Vine launched in January, at least 36 colleges have started using it, according to a June article from EdTech Magazine.
"We thought it's something we should jump on," says Colin Huber, a writer and social media coordinator for Oregon State University. The school posted its first Vine video in February.
"When new platforms come out with social media, if it's something that you think could be of use, it's important to be one of the first ones on there," Huber says.
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Vine was created by Twitter, the text-based social media heavyweight, and allows users to create six-second videos. Common edits include showing several different scenes or a panoramic view of a single destination.
Months after Vine launched, it got some competition from Instagram. Popular for letting users add filters to and share images, Instagram began to let users upload 15-second videos in June. Colleges use these apps – as well as other social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – as marketing tools to draw in new students and engage current ones.
"I see social media as a way to kind of showcase the university," says Joe Kuffner, assistant director of media relations at the University of Portland. He also manages the school's Vine and Instagram accounts. "Just kind of telling our story, showcasing our people, highlighting the great work our students are doing," he says.
New platforms for short videos may also create new opportunities for prospective students who want to get a school's attention.
"They give more facets to the student," says Clinton Lanier, author of "Recruiting With Social Media: Using Social Networks to Drive College Admissions." Lanier, who consults with several universities on how they can use social media effectively, says the videos can make an admissions officer look at students a little more.
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When prospective students engage with a school on social media, university officials managing the account will sometimes forward a student's message or question to the admissions staff. If a student wants to make a good impression or enhance their application with a video message, they have a number of options, says Lanier.
Athletes may show themselves swimming, diving or running. Other students can use their high school network to speak for them.
"Endorsements from their teachers and professors would be a lot of fun," says Lanier. He suggests students ask different teachers to say one word that describes them, having the video play as a more digitally savvy version of the typical recommendation letter.
Showing school spirit may also catch the eye of a university official. If a student wore Beaver gear, as a nod to Oregon State's mascot, "we would absolutely reach out to them," Huber says.
Because Vine and Instagram don't allow users to make long videos, Lanier suggests enhancing these short films by including multiple scenes.
"It makes it more exciting that way," he says.
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A dull video, in contrast, can be one that features students simply stating their name and talking about themselves.
That kind of video won't be taken seriously, Lanier says.
Prospective students may also diminish their chances of attracting a school's attention in a positive way if they create a video showing them doing drugs, spewing hate speech or participating in other activities that would typically lead to trouble.
Even if they make a great video that a university's staff likes, there could be other content on their account that doesn't speak well for them.