Students blog for admissions, but posts go unnoticed

Each year, GW selects a handful of undergraduate students to write blog posts on the undergraduate admissions blog, an unedited forum in which bloggers are paid to write about their daily life at the University. Yet despite a recent revamp of the admissions and University Web sites, the frequent blog posts draw few, if any, comments from readers.

Over the past few years, universities across the country have turned to admissions blogs to give incoming students a more accurate picture of campus life. Since 2008, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions has paid a half dozen students to write blog posts about the reality of college life.

“We tell them to write about their day to day lives inside and outside the classroom,” Executive Dean for Undergraduate Admissions Kathryn Napper said in an e-mail. “We do not assign specific topics for the bloggers to write about. We know that the experiences of our current students are of paramount importance in our recruitment strategy.”

Napper said the bloggers are compensated for their work, though she declined to say how much they were paid. An e-mail obtained by The Hatchet, sent from an assistant admissions director to a blogger applicant, said students were paid $10 per post and up to $100 per month. Senior Jamie Ramacciotti, one of the student bloggers, said the compensation was not a factor for her writing.

“They encourage us to be as honest as possible,” said Ramacciotti, who has been blogging since her sophomore year. “Obviously we remember that we are representing the University so we want to cast it in a good light, but they want us to be as candid as possible [about] what it’s like to be a student at GW every day.”

Recent blog topics have ranged from “Choosing a Major” to “Turkey Day, College Style,” in which blogger “Abby” shared her Colonial Thanksgiving plans.

“When you are away from your home and your family, GW becomes home and your friends become your family, so why not celebrate together?” she said in the post. “We all cook or buy something to contribute to the meal, and we go all out. I’m talking turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, green been casserole – the works.”

But unlike schools like Massachusetts Institute of Technology – where blog posts are prominently displayed on the front page of its admissions Web site – the GW Admissions Student Blog is at least two clicks away from the admissions home page.

“I feel that the blogs should be more prominently displayed on the Web site,” GW undergraduate applicant Kevin Barry said in an e-mail. “When scrolling down on the admissions Web site, I don’t tend to notice the small box at the bottom for GW blogs. The link is under a title called ‘GW Interactive.’ I think that many applying students, like myself, would not be compelled to click on that for the sole reason that they have no idea what it is.”

And the recent revamp of the undergraduate admissions blogs seems to have gone unnoticed. Unlike the viral MIT blog posts, which draw as many as 100 comments each week, the GW blog posts have not received any comments from readers since the first post at its new home on a blogspot page linked from the admissions Web site.

Despite the dearth of comments, Ramacciotti said she was optimistic that comments from readers will come in time.

“We’re hoping that it will become more interactive,” she said.

Ramacciotti said that regardless of the blog’s placement on the Web site, interested students still read the posts.

“Obviously since I’m writing the blog I would love for it to be front and center because I’d love everyone to read what I’m writing,” Ramacciotti said. “I think students who are really interested in GW and want to hear about current students will be able to find it and find it really valuable.”

Alexandra Niakani, another potential GW undergraduate, said she only noticed the blog after receiving questions about it from The Hatchet, but was very interested in keeping up with comments from students.

“If I had known about them, I think I would have read them, because reading them now makes me want to be a GW student even more,” Niakani said in an e-mail. “The topics are fun and we get to see GW from a different perspective, the student, rather than the admissions people or the people who are supposed to tell you all the great things about GW.”

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