Connect on Social Media to Research U.S. Colleges

Social media has become increasingly important in our lives, and has changed the traditional ways many of us get and exchange information. When it comes to applying to schools overseas, social media can connect international students with current students and alumni in other countries, making the difficult work of researching overseas schools much easier.

The emergence of interactive communication on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, among others, provides people with the opportunity to create, share and exchange information simultaneously without being subject to time and geographical constraints, bringing people all around the world closer to each other.

But knowing how best to use various forms of social media, including the following, to facilitate your college application decision is key to your research.

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1. LinkedIn: Prospective international students should create a LinkedIn account and find alumni groups from the schools they are considering applying to. LinkedIn is a very popular social networking site for professionals to build connections and seek employment in the U.S.

LinkedIn is more professional and formal than Facebook because you might connect with your future employers, who may see and evaluate what you have posted. It's worthwhile to know that now, before you come to the U.S. and become a frequent visitor to the site.

To use LinkedIn to research and learn about schools in the U.S., request to be added to alumni groups and, once approved, send questions to group members about schools. In my view, you will often get more candid, firsthand answers from current students and alumni than from the schools' admissions offices.

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2. Facebook: The social networking site is more than just a tool to check your friends' updates and photos when you wake up every morning; it is also an efficient platform to reach out to current students or alums in the U.S.

How can you find current students or alums on Facebook if you don't already know anybody in the U.S.? The answer is by finding the pages of schools' international student associations. I found the NYU International Student Club's Facebook page very helpful - when I posted an interview request on its wall, someone later replied.

3. Twitter: Don't forget this popular site where users post short messages. Not only can you follow many of your favorite schools on Twitter, but you may also find professors and students if you search for hashtags related to the school. By following schools and professors, you will get updated school information, learn about the expertise of individual professors and most importantly, be able to ask questions.

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In addition to social media, many schools offer mobile apps where information about transportation, accommodations, extracurricular activities and more can be easily found. These can be great platforms that allow you to peek at life in the school. NYU's free mobile smartphone app lets you explore its rich university life through events, university information and photos.

When I first moved to the U.S. in 2010, I had no idea what LinkedIn or Twitter were, and I didn't know how to take advantage of them to further facilitate my research into schools. Now that I've lived in the U.S. for nearly four years, social media sites have become a vital venue for me to keep up with the latest news.

When applying to schools in the U.S., it's important for international students to stay connected on social media to get the latest admissions information, ask questions and show their interest.

Jia Guo, from China, graduated from the University of Minnesota--Twin Cities in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism after transferring from Shandong University of Political Science and Law in Jinan, China, where she studied law. Guo is currently a graduate journalism student at New York University.