When choosing which university you want to spend four years of your life at, how important is its social media presence?
For Itai Kuwodza, it was all she had.
Kuwodza is a first-year student from Harare, Zimbabwe. As an international student, she knew nothing about Halifax. She found the University of King’s College after doing some research on Canadian schools, but thought the school’s image was poorly reflected online.
“My main thing with King’s is the website,” she said. “The school website doesn’t really ‘wow’ you. It’s just information. If I was judging on how the school looks, and I was going through websites, I would not pick King’s.”
Kuwodza says the website is boring and she thinks King’s can “step that up.”
She wanted to go to school in the United States, but when her mother heard about school shootings there, Kuwodza had to look elsewhere.
She looked at universities across Canada, but when she got in contact with administration at King’s, her decision was made.
“It felt like people really wanted me to come here. People always kept in touch… they replied like that,” she said, snapping her fingers.
Kuwodza knew King’s was where she wanted to end up and after emailing back and forth with administration. She had a basic understanding of the King’s experience.
“I knew that the school was really small, which was great because I like small universities anyways,” Kuwodza said. “I knew it was very prestigious, and basically that on campus it’s more of a first year kind of vibe, which I thought was really cool.”
But Kuwodza was left wondering what the reality of King’s would be.
“I can’t come here for an open house until I’ve committed… because it’s expensive” she said. “So if I can get an experience of the school from the media as much as possible, that would have made my life so much easier in choosing.”
She says the campus pictures and black and white drawings available on the website don’t help sell the school.
“I think it’s a disservice to the school. We got here and my mom was like, ‘Wow this place is really nice and they should put it up (on their website),’” Kuwodza said.
Zaa Nkweta, the graduate recruitment coordinator at King’s, says the university’s online presence isn’t as big as he would like it to be.
Currently, six per cent of King’s students are international. Nkweta would like to see that number climb to 25, saying we need “to give our students the best education that they can get for themselves and to allow them to navigate the world.”
There are two approaches to recruiting students from outside of Canada: looking at the United States and looking outside the United States.
Nkewta will travel to schools in the States based on what they offer and what the schools’ scores are in English and liberal arts. This in-person form of recruitment is done around Canada as well. However, Nkweta says things are more difficult for recruitment outside of North America because he cannot travel there.
Usually, a student will strike up a conversation with Nkweta by expressing interest in King’s — sometimes via Facebook. From there, Nkweta uses email to offer guidance and answer questions. King’s has a limited social media presence. Given the school’s tight budget and limited resources, recruitment relies on advertisements on Google and Facebook.
Nkweta hopes that King’s will find the funds to join larger social media platforms, placing King’s at an international level.
“You can’t put all your eggs in the digital,” Nkweta said. “You also have to balance it with standing in front of someone, in their schools, speaking to them face to face.”