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College Admissions in the Google Age

BU launches new Web site to reach prospective students

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Ten years ago, a college search typically began with a brochure mailed to a prospective student’s home or obtained from a guidance counselor. But today, most college searches begin anonymously on the Web.

To find and engage the interested students who start the search online, the Office of Admissions debuted its updated Web site yesterday, after nearly a year of preparation. The newly expanded site is rich in multimedia and features photographs, videos, and slide shows intended to provide an inside look at the BU experience.

“The old site was text-heavy, dated, and difficult to navigate,” says Kelly Walter, executive director of admissions. “The new site is much more exciting and intuitive. It’s extremely cutting-edge, and it accurately represents the personality of BU.”

Designed by the Office of New Media, the revamped site combines essential information about academics, student activities, and financial aid with interactive story-telling elements, such as videos and slide shows. “Our primary goal is to engage students in the BU community before they ever arrive on campus,” Walter says. “We want to show, not tell, them what it’s like to be a student at Boston University.”

Video is one the of the most effective ways to portray student life, says Jon Brousseau (CFA’08), lead designer and associate creative director of the Office of New Media. “We really did our homework and researched a lot of sites before settling on a design,” he says. “From a technological standpoint, we’re pretty far ahead of the curve. You don’t see that many other admissions sites using Flash.”

Each year, the admissions Web site generates about seven million hits and a million unique page views. “The new Web site will allow prospective students to do initial filtering without the cost, time, and expense of visiting Boston,” Walter says.

Although nearly half of all prospective students do visit BU before applying, the admissions Web site is the only point of reference for a quarter of all applicants, which is why having an interactive Web site is crucial. “Applicants who live far away or who are financially disadvantaged often can’t come to campus before applying,” says Walter, “so it’s very important that the Web site offer an accurate perspective into student life at BU.”

While the site includes basic information such as how to visit and how to apply and information on the different schools and colleges, it also includes videos that instruct prospective students how to apply for financial aid, how to write a college admissions essay, and how to choose a major.

Walter is particularly excited about a video section called “You at BU,” which follows current BU students around campus. “It’s a very candid look into student life,” she says, “and it’s clearly unscripted.”

The section is broken into three subcategories. “A Week in the Life” includes videos of students participating in everyday activities, from attending class lectures and eating lunch in the dining halls to working out at the FitRec Center and doing laundry. “After Class” delves into extracurricular activities, such as playing intramural sports and volunteering at the Community Service Center. And “Finding My Way” describes ways that students discover their niche at BU, whether through classes, friends, or an internship.

In total, Walter says, more than 40 students are profiled on the site.

“Their voices lend a real authenticity to the site,” she says. “Visiting it is definitely the next best thing to actually visiting the campus.”

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.

3 Comments

3 Comments on College Admissions in the Google Age

  • Anonymous on 11.25.2008 at 7:58 am

    Outstanding product. Showcases the university very positively.

  • Anonymous on 11.25.2008 at 11:50 am

    Pretty cool website. I wish it had been there when I first applied. However, it has a few problems. Why does the website say that biochemistry and molecular biology is a double major. its just ONE major. Secondly, it is a little interesting that on the faculty page, the depicted professor is black. I don’t know him or what class he teaches, but I am a junior in CAS and to date, I am yet to have a black professor. Maybe this absence is just in the sciences but that picture may be a false image of BU.

  • James Expert on 01.09.2009 at 2:22 am

    This creates a whole lot different playing field for students today. Browsing through different schools is brought right on their desks. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day, nobody needs to go to a school anymore.

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