10 Big Ways Facebook Forever Changed College

If you ask a college student which websites he or she uses on a daily basis, the top answer (perhaps, aside from email) will be Facebook. Social media sites, especially Facebook, have become part of the average college student's everyday routine, with many students checking the site numerous times throughout the day whether they're relaxing, in class, or supposed to be studying. It's important to note that Facebook is more than just a daily ritual for college students, however, and it has actually changed the college experience in some pretty major ways. Before many students even reach campus, they've already used Facebook to learn about their schools, make friends, and even keep in touch with admissions officers. The impact continues throughout their college careers, altering some fundamental college experiences like these we've listed below.

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  1. Students can arrive on campus already knowing scores of people.

    Back in the days before social media, students would arrive on a college campus knowing only a handful of people, if that, and perhaps even talking to their future college roommate just a few times. That's no longer the case for many of today's students. The vast majority of college classes, and even a few individual majors, have their own Facebook page, allowing all incoming students to meet, connect, and even set up activities before school even starts. Students can build relationships with their peers and their future roommates well in advance of school, which can help ease the transition between high school and college life in a way that students in years past simply didn't have the opportunity to do.

  2. College admissions officers are getting to know students more personally.

    Fair or not, Facebook may be playing a role in whether or not some students get into a given college, or at least keeping them abreast of the decision-making process. Recent surveys suggest that more than 80% of college admissions officers use Facebook to check out prospective applicants, whether before they apply to find high-quality recruits or during the admissions process. While the prospect of being analyzed via social media can be intimidating for some students, it doesn't come without a few advantages. Students can tailor their profiles to present a positive image that shows off their talents and can also keep in touch with admissions officials (who often friend students) throughout the application and admissions process.

  3. Facebook is often a part of college classes.

    Facebook isn't just for socializing; it can also be a tool for keeping in touch with professors and classmates and getting reminders about upcoming projects and tests. More and more students these days are finding Facebook is part of their actual college courses, and participation in a Facebook group may even be required as part of a class. Professors and students alike report preferring keeping connected through Facebook, as most students check the site daily and are likely to see any questions, updates, or reminders that are posted there. Of course, Facebook sometimes plays a bigger role than just hosting reminders for tests, as some professors use it to share links, videos, and photos that are related to class work and students can use course pages to set up their own study sessions as well, something that would have been much more complicated to coordinate a decade ago.

  4. It's simpler to keep in touch with important networking connections.

    While the web has played an important role in networking for college grads for quite some time, Facebook and other social media sites are making it nearly impossible to keep in touch without using them in some way or another. Alumni groups often have a large presence through Facebook and students can easily keep in touch with professors and other connections made on campus by becoming friends on Facebook. Additionally, students can often easily find the profiles of individuals they've met at campus events, including those that could potentially help them find work, letting them continue to build relationships in a much easier and more natural way than would have been possible in the pre-social media days.

  5. Mistakes can go public quickly.

    Part of being in college is learning how to live independently and be a responsible adult, and for some students, that involves making a few mistakes along the way. Social media has changed the impact of those mistakes, however, and some college students have seen much more fallout related to their missteps than before Facebook dominated college campuses. Mistakes can go public in an instant and one bad night of binge drinking, a moment of anger, or even an ill thought-out joke can become a major incident that can result in the loss of a job, scholarships, or even admission to college. Students must be incredibly careful about maintaining their personal image on Facebook, watching what they say or do as well as what information friends share about them, something that pre-digital age students never had to worry about on such a grand scale.

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  1. Students can stay in touch easily.

    It used to be much harder for students to keep in touch with family, high school friends, and other connections when they went away to college, but not anymore. Through Facebook, students can get instant access to updates about the lives of just about everyone they know, from grandparents to best friends to exes. Exchanging quick messages, sharing pictures, chatting, or even playing games can help foster relationships from thousands of miles away, which may help many students feel less lonely and homesick during their first few months away from home. Friendships that would have been difficult to maintain are now effortless and students can easily learn more about what's going on at home, always feeling like they're in the loop and even part of the action.

  2. Adapting to college life is easier.

    Students who attend college today may have an easier time adapting to life on campus than students in years past, at least that's what studies of Facebook seem to suggest. Research at Keele University in the UK found that students who interacted more on Facebook had higher levels of self-esteem, were happier, and less stressed than their peers who didn't use the site. Why? Facebook allows students to create a support network, which can be essential in navigating those first few months away from home. The site also helps to foster new friendships, which are key to helping students be happy and adjust to life at college.

  3. Students use Facebook as an expression of personal identity.

    Facebook profiles aren't just a way for students to keep in touch. For many, they are also an extension of their personal identities, allowing students to cultivate the image they want others to see of them and to manage their peers' impressions of them. Facebook offers students a chance to show off who they are (or in some cases who they want to be) and to form new connections with others who have shared interests. Increasingly, it's hard to get by in college without a Facebook profile, as many young people see it as a key part of their identity and how they connect with the world, a change that has been slowly and steadily happening over the past decade.

  4. Many outside social interactions begin on Facebook.

    While college students are still socially active today, engaging in sports, parties, and hang-outs, just as much as past generations, the difference is that many of these social interactions have their roots in social media. Few campus events or groups don't have a Facebook page, and these pages are often the main way that students find out about things they'd like to take part in on campus. Facebook makes it easier to transmit information about events, casual or not, to a large group and to send updates if circumstances change. Simply put, it's become the most practical way to keep in touch with groups of students and to share information about social interactions. Few college events exist truly outside of Facebook, making it an essential element in nearly all college students' social lives.

  5. Facebook has changed ideas of privacy.

    Facebook has been at the center of some major privacy-related debate in the past few years, but the way these debates have actually shaped the ways college students use Facebook have been varied. Research has shown that college students are more willing to share information about themselves over Facebook than they may be in real-life settings, seeing this form of self-exposure as a positive, not a negative, marking a major shift in attitudes about privacy. That doesn't mean students don't care about privacy, however. Research has likewise shown that students are very concerned about maintaining their privacy settings on Facebook, controlling who can see their profiles and is able to access information about them. While the degrees of privacy students engage in on Facebook may vary, the reality for all students is that the social site is having a major impact on young people view privacy, with many having much more flexible ideas about personal privacy than in generations past.

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