When Emeline Niyibitanga found out she would be a part of Clemson University’s Class of 2025, she couldn’t wait to get started.
The Dillon High School senior wanted to get to know her soon-to-be classmates, learn more about everything she needed to do to get involved and meet a potential roommate. But with a global pandemic making it hard to meet others, there was little opportunity to make new friends in person.
That’s when Niyibitanga decided to go another route, creating a Clemson Class of 2025 Instagram page. She got the idea after seeing similar Facebook pages in her junior year for the Class of 2024, where students would post information about themselves.
“It’s not just a way for me to connect other people, it’s a way for me to get to meet other people in an indirect way,” she said.
The grid on Niyibitanga’s page, which has the handle @clemsonco2025, is filled with headshots, senior portraits and friend groups looking to meet their new classmates. Incoming freshmen send their pictures and a paragraph about themselves to the direct messages on the page, which Niyibitanga oversees.
To be included on the page, participants have to send proof of their acceptance to Clemson. The end result is a dating app-style page but for people eager to get on to the next chapter of their life.
Since she started the page, Niyibitanga has approved around 340 posts that are flooded onto the feeds of over 2,300 followers.
An admissions strategy
Pages like Niyibitanga’s aren’t new. For years, college students and young professionals have been using Facebook and Instagram to network, make friends and find places to live.
Since the pandemic, social media has played an even bigger role and college admissions officials are catching on.
That’s true for the College of Charleston too. The college manages multiple Facebook pages for different classes of students. The “College of Charleston Class of 2025 (OFFICIAL)” Facebook group, which is run by the university, has over 600 members.
“When a student is admitted we encourage them to join these ‘Class of …’ Facebook groups,” said Maddy Young, the college’s director of social media. “They’re typically used by admitted students to introduce themselves.”
From there, Young said the students use the page for everything from finding help enrolling in classes to meeting a roommate or finding a group of people to study with.
The groups have become an important part of the college’s admissions strategy.
“This is a savvy generation of students,” College of Charleston Director of Enrollment Amy Takayama-Perez said. “Social media is one of the top places that they go to get information about colleges and universities.”
Takayama-Perez said the goal isn’t to let students live on social media. Instead she hopes the groups start a conversation between students and help them find their connections in the real world.
A parent’s perspective
When Elizabeth George’s son, Carter George, was admitted to Clemson, she was shocked by how much she and her son needed to do.
Carter is Elizabeth’s first child to go to college. She didn’t anticipate the long checklist of items required of her now that he’s been admitted.
“You have to complete enrollment, a housing deposit, all kinds of stuff that they have to do that I don’t remember doing in college,” Elizabeth said.
So she turned to the Class of 2025 Clemson Parents Facebook page.
Since joining, Elizabeth has relied on the page as a means of connecting to other parents to get information on what she should buy for Carter’s dorm, the best hotels for parents’ weekend and how to sign up for food and housing.
Not only have the pages been useful to her, Elizabeth said she’s watched Carter get value out of them as well.
Carter joined the Class of 2025 Facebook and Instagram pages and later was added to the class’ Snapchat group. Although he found his roommate through the university’s roommate matching system, the groups have been a great way for him to make friends and connected before he leaves for school.
“For him, I think it’s invaluable to know some of your classmates before you get there,” Elizabeth said.
Making lasting connections
The College of Charleston pages from past years have been used for much more than initial introductions, Young said.
Students have started to use the page to sell books, find internship opportunities, invite each other to networking events and more.
“One of our strategic goals is always to improve the student experience and support them to be successful here at the college,” Young said. “Social media is a huge touchpoint for that.”
Niyibitanga hopes her page will continue to be a resource for the Class of 2025 far past their freshman year.
From students expressing their love for “Gossip Girl,” “Friends” and “The Office” to others looking for a roommate, who they ask “promise not to murder me in my sleep,” the page is full of personality and potential friendships.
“Though we’re freshmen now, we’re still going to be students at Clemson,” Niyibitanga said. “People can always scroll through and see if they want to make a new friend.”