Admissions: Methodology

Campus Sonar is dedicated to helping higher education institutions reestablish the public trust by supporting on-campus strategies for success through the delivery of strategic insights derived from social listening data.

Social listening as a research method is similar to archival ethnography (and in some circles, social listening is known as netnography), positioning the researcher within an archival environment to gain the cultural perspective of those responsible for the creation, collection, care, and use of records and, at times, quantify findings to describe or explain phenomena of interest. The records, in this case, are online social data. 

The Campus Sonar research team used enterprise-level social listening software for this study, which provides access to 100 million online sources and over 1.3 trillion individual posts for querying. Analysts collect online conversation data for a specified time period that emerged from students talking about undergraduate college admissions at 4-year campuses in the United States on Twitter and  forums related to college (like Reddit and College Confidential) in non-athletic contexts. Retweets were not included in this analysis to avoid dilution of overall themes due to viral content. Writing and using a custom Boolean query in the social listening software, analysts collected data for the purpose of descriptive analysis that speaks to the college admissions journey.

Within that dataset, analysts segmented data by:

  • Institution type (4-year). If no other indicators were provided besides the term “college,” it was assumed the institution was a 4-year school.
  • Audience (student).
  • Student’s place in the admissions funnel (prospective or admitted). Prospective students included any students applying for college or university, regardless of if they already had a degree or were transferring. Admitted students included any students who had been admitted to college, even if they were at an institution already and had applied and been admitted for transfer.

Only publicly-available social data was collected; private online conversations, or conversations not indexed by the social listening software (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, TikTok) were not available for this study. When referring to admissions conversations, we mean mentions we could collect with software. For this study, no institutional data (e.g., admission rates, graduation rates, etc.) were collected and therefore, no attempt was made to draw any conclusions related to the relationship between online conversation and specific institutional strategic objectives.