To apply to the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE), you have to do it online, and the first step is signing up for MSOE Bridge, the school's own social network.
MSOE is one of a handful of learning institutions that has decided engaging with students through social media requires more than just a Facebook page and a Twitter account. These universities are creating their own social networks centered on the student experience, with many of them at least building toward covering the span from prospective student to accepted student, enrolled student and alumnus.
MSOE started with admissions because that was one of its areas of greatest concern at the start of the project, according to Dana Grennier, director of digital marketing at the school. Of particular concern was the drop off between acceptance and enrollment, when keeping in touch seemed to be a particular challenge, she said in an interview. "Students weren't at home when we were calling, and they weren't responding to emails like they used to."
Grennier was working in the admissions office when the original directive came down to "go be social," on the theory that social media would be a better way of connecting with students. The admissions office set up Facebook pages, "but we really didn't know what to do with them or how to manage them appropriately," she said. After getting authorization to seek consulting help, she pulled in the agency 7Summits, which suggested MSOE create a tighter connection with applicants by fielding its own social network. Facebook would still be used for marketing and streamlined site registration and login, using Facebook Connect for social sign on.