WesAdmits: Prefrosh, Admissions, and Social Media
Whether you are an enthusiastic pre-frosh, a helpful upperclassman, or an ardent procrastinator in search of entertainment, you have probably spent some time traversing the WesAdmits Facebook pages.
Set up by the Admissions Office as a space for admitted students to connect and ask questions, WesAdmits has grown more active with each successive year as students become more and more integrated with online social media. The pages—WesAdmits 2015 in particular—have developed into both a central informational hub and a social platform, allowing students to get a glimpse of their peers long before move-in day.
The 2015 WesAdmits page is still in use, months into the school year.
The Admissions Office started creating Facebook groups for admitted students four years ago as part of a larger “yield strategy,” which also includes emails, web chats, and phone calls to admitted students. Many prospective students use the WesAdmits groups to ask questions about the University, which are answered by admissions representatives and current students acting in a non-official capacity.
“I don’t think there’s anybody who sells Wesleyan better than current students,” said Tara Lindros, an Associate Dean of Admission, who manages yield activity (students who accept their admitted status). “If you are interested and you are trying to decide between different schools, what better way to do that than to have the opportunity to interact—with no intermediaries, basically—with current students? That’s something that we really wanted to facilitate, especially for students who can’t come to campus.”
Former Orientation Intern Brendan O’Donnell ’14 spent last summer working for the Admissions Office. He spent a lot of his time addressing the questions of pre-frosh on the WesAdmits 2015 group.
“It was a very steady stream [of questions],” O’Donnell said. “There were a lot of questions that were not necessarily that relevant but that people were curious about, that we had to answer.”
Many of the questions on the 2015 group deviated greatly from those on earlier WesAdmits groups. Some of the more unexpected questions from the class of 2015 were: “Wait, we HAVE to take alcohol-edu?”; “Does anyone know if there are any ping pong tables?!?!”; “How do we get water?”; and, “Say, are there any swing sets on or near campus?”
Dave Thomas, an Assistant Dean of Admission who creates and oversees the WesAdmits groups each year, has also noticed that a growing number of current students who aren’t employed by the Admissions Office are chiming in to conversations on the group page.
“There are a lot more matriculates who I’ve seen in the group this year than I saw last year,” Thomas said. “And there are so many more current students who voluntarily joined the group this year to help and talk about what they have to offer campus.”
In addition to using the group to get practical questions answered, many students find the forum useful for connecting to their future classmates before even setting foot on campus. Ian Carr ’15 found his current roommate, Reid Hildebrand ’15, through the WesAdmits group, as well as many students with whom he is still friends.
“[WesAdmits 2015] just kind of let you know who was the same as you,” Carr said. “It was a way to get to know people that you were going to be meeting.”
He added that he also felt more comfortable knowing some people before ever arriving on campus.
“It’s nice to kind of have a friend before, because God knows it’s really, really stressful those first few weeks,” said Carr. “And having an established base of friends before you go into that can be really reassuring. I know before I went in, even into orientation week, I had a group of five or ten friends that I had been talking to over the course of the year.”
Carr said he is still friends with many of the students he met through WesAdmits. O’Donnell, however, expressed wariness about using WesAdmits as a social tool. He recalled his thoughts as a pre-frosh and his reluctance to use the website.
“I’m going to meet people when I get there,” said O’Donnell. “I might as well meet them in person rather than try to create an abstract of these individuals via the Facebook page.”
Some students used the group with similar goals of meeting new people but found that the real, lasting connections were made once they arrived on campus.
“I guess it kind of got me to connect with people who I didn’t know yet, just meet new people,” said Jesse Mangiardi ’15. “It didn’t matter that much though, because I met completely new people when I got here. I actually went through my friends list a couple of months ago, or maybe it was last month, and I was just like, ‘I don’t know all of these people.’ I just never ended up meeting them.”
Many students find it strange that they can know information about, and form opinions of, their potential future classmates, friends, and roommates without meeting them face-to-face.
“I guess it can establish expectations that aren’t necessarily going to be fulfilled,” said Carr. “That’s always a problem with those kinds of online interactions with people. A person’s face on the internet is going to be different from a person’s face in real life. So you start to establish ideas and relationships about and with people that aren’t necessarily going to be fulfilled. And that can be disappointing, but on the other hand, the benefits kind of outweigh that.”
Some of the benefits go beyond just connecting to future classmates—people also use WesAdmits to find potential roommates. Mangiardi helped bring people in the group together by setting up another online forum outside of the Facebook group where people could post descriptions of themselves in hopes of finding someone compatible to request as a roommate.
“A few people actually emailed me and told me that they were thankful for me having set that up, that they were really good roommates this year and planning to be roommates next year,” he said.
As social and informational spaces, the WesAdmits group pages more or less run themselves. Thomas and Lindros said that they check the pages frequently but have not ever felt compelled to delete posts.
“There is a statement on the page that says it is the official Facebook page [for admitted students], and we do expect that students will abide by Wesleyan’s code of conduct as they would if they were students here,” Lindros said. “I’ve never felt like there was something on there for me to take down. We just want to make sure that if someone has a question, it’s getting answered, that conversation is moving along, but otherwise, we do pay attention to it. We do look at it, but I wouldn’t call it monitoring in any kind of formal sense.”
Thomas and Lindros said they especially enjoy noticing students announce on the group that they plan to attend the University.
“We’re excited when a student that we admitted says, ‘I’m coming to Wesleyan!’” said Thomas.
The enthusiasm is evident on both sides. Nicole Klein ’15 recalls browsing WesAdmits 2015 as a pre-frosh.
“I would go on Facebook and have maybe 100 notifications,” Klein said. “It was nice to see that everybody was just as excited as I was. Some people were weird, but the overall feeling was excitement, which was nice.
The excitement over the page died down considerably when the class of 2015 arrived on campus, but the Facebook group is still in use. WesAdmits 2015 now primarily functions as a forum for begging for rides, Sunday morning posts about lost WesCards, and midweek posts about the events for the weekend.
“It’s really interesting, because for my year, the last post was probably in September,” O’Donnell said. “Once people got to campus, they were like, all right, that’s done, that was a phase and now it’s over. I think it’s kind of cool that [WesAdmits 2015] has kind of taken on this class identity and is used as a forum and a way for people to talk within the Class of 2015. [The current sophomore class] does not have the equivalent. I think it’s cool that it outlived its original purpose but now has a new purpose.”
Overall, students appreciate the variety of opportunities given to them through the WesAdmits groups.
“The group is just a good way to network,” Carr said. “It’s really beneficial for pre-frosh to get to know people before they come here. I won’t say it makes the awkwardness go away, but it definitely deals a hefty blow to it. It’s not going to be quite as strenuous when you get here for O-week. Like, you’re not going to just collapse into a quivering heap.”