When incoming first-year student Tai Jackson started looking at colleges his junior year of high school, Emory University was not his top choice. He knew he wanted to go somewhere with a strong theater program, and Jackson said Emory did not seem to fit the bill with its pre-med reputation.
However, after discovering Emory’s “very strong” theater community, such as Dooley’s Players, on Instagram, Jackson’s perspective shifted. By senior year, he was set on attending Emory. He was accepted in Early Decision I.
“I would have never even known that Emory had a good theater program, or even had a theater program, if it wasn’t for social media,” Jackson said.
Associate Vice Provost and Dean of Admission John Latting said that if the University sends an email to 300,000 prospective students, only about 600 people will open it, while an Instagram video can get 30,000 views in three days. This outreach is a large part of the admissions process, Latting said.
“Our whole team were involved, not just in selecting students, but in engaging students, in telling the Emory story, in providing information so that students and their parents and family members and counselors can make decisions on whether Emory is a good fit for them,” Latting said.
Latting added that students seek answers to their questions on social media instead of looking up statistics in a book.
“New media just really are changing the landscape … but we’re really having to shift and rethink what tools do we use to tell the Emory story,” Latting said.
Emory has had to shift how it markets itself to prospective students to keep up with the changing demand, Latting added.
According to Director of Enrollment Marketing and Communications Luca Magnanini (05B), the University started a program called Emory Student Ambassadors in 2022, which employs students as paid influencers. The students create content, such as day in the life videos, that the University can post on their social media accounts.
Five students employed as influencers did not respond to requests for comment. Arianna Ophir (25C) said that she was unable to provide comment as an Office of Undergraduate Admission employee.
The rise of social media in college admissions can help prospective students who are unable to visit campus, Magnanini added. He recalled discussing this with a Canadian student who told him she had never visited campus before coming to Emory.
“She really relied on our site as well as social media to really get a good sense of what Emory was about,” Magnanini said.
Incoming first-year student Tessa Butler said social media gives a better look into what day-to-day student life is like than campus tours.
“Social media and the virtual tour and so forth are really our opportunity to enhance, to help students and their parents make a decision,” Magnanini said.
Incoming first-year student Jahara McGarrell, who is from New York, said that one of her biggest concerns about coming to college was moving to Georgia by herself. However, social media “nullified” this concern because it enabled her to “network” and form her “own little community.”
Social media allows students to connect with institutions and find their place, Magnanini added. Incoming first-year student Halle Stewart, who is from Jamaica, said social media was her main outlet for learning about different colleges. She remembered watching Emory recently post about Dooley’s Week.
“That entire week, those events, those kinds of things, they kind of drew me into the school,” Stewart said. “It looks like an environment that I’d want to be in.”
Managing Editor Madi Olivier (25C) contributed to reporting.
Alexa Freedman (she/her, 26C) is from Atlanta, Georgia, and is majoring in psychology and minoring in the business school. Outside of writing for the Wheel's News and Arts & Entertainment sections, Freedman is involved with Hillel and Emory READS. If you're looking for her, chances are you'll find her listening to excessive amounts of Broadway soundtracks, with her nose in a book, or at Starbucks (and sometimes all three)!