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Study finds students preparing for college can benefit from Facebook


Friday, June 14, 2013

These days, it is hard to find a prospective college student who does not use social media. As useful as these platforms are for staying in touch with friends or for following events, social media is can play a big part in the college search and preparation process among first-generation college students. According to a new study published by researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan (U-M), using Facebook can have a variety of benefits for first-generation students who are preparing for college.

Building confidence
For some students, particularly those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the thought of attending college can be daunting. Financial concerns like how will they pay for college coupled with worries about their likelihood of success in college and their future employment prospects can dissuade even talented students from submitting college applications. However, the positive reinforcement offered by family and friends through social media networks can bolster the students' confidence and provide them with the drive they need to not only apply to college, but excel once they are there.

"We are very excited by these findings, because they suggest that the kinds of interactions supported by Facebook and other social media can play a role in helping young people, especially those who are traditionally less likely to go to college, feel more confident about their ability to get into college and to succeed there," said Nicole Ellison, an associate professor at the University of Michigan's School of Information.

'Demystifying' the college experience
Researchers polled more than 500 high school students from lower income families in Muskegon County, Michigan. Using statistical analysis models, they studied how various factors, including demographics or whether a prospective student's family members had attended college affected the student's overall levels of confidence about submitting college applications and their chances of succeeding academically.

Of the students polled, 70 percent had a Facebook friend who either was in college or had gone and could answer questions about it. According to the study results, first-generation students who answered "strongly agree" to the survey question asking if they had this type of Facebook connection were 2.3 times more confident in their ability to succeed in school, compared with their peers who had no Facebook friend they could talk to about college.

Twelve percent of the students said they had used social media to research their college options. Overall, these students felt 1.8 times more confident not only about the college application process, but also of their chances of academic success. According to U-M News Service, based on these findings researchers believe that guidance counselors and administrators can use social media to help high school juniors and seniors navigate the college search process.

"We think social media may demystify the college experience, because kids are able to see how others like them experience the process," Ellison said. "Also, sites like Facebook make it easier to ask questions of one's network."

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