If you only knew what was going on inside the heads of your prospective students, it would be a LOT easier to increase application and acceptance rates.

Mallory Wood, the assistant director of marketing and former admissions officer at Saint Michael’s College in Burlington, VT, has discovered one way to reveal what lies in the remote parts of students’ minds: anonymous Q&A.

It’s a simple idea: prospective and incoming students have many practical questions about your school they are afraid to ask—or don’t know whom to ask—and your school admissions and student life offices may not have time to answer them all. Without answers, those students could head off to more hospital schools.

To prevent that, Wood’s team incorporated a question-and-answer platform for students directly into St. Michael’s own official social media blog site. They did it using Formspring, a website wherein Web users can submit questions anonymously and have them answered online.

Wood says that in its first four months of use, over 700 students’ questions have been addressed—questions that would have likely gone unanswered otherwise, such as “Do you have to bring our own toilet paper to college?” Can you imagine a teenager asking that during a campus tour, surrounded by strangers?

Here’s how it works: new and future students post questions on St. Michael’s Admissions Office’s blog site. A team of student bloggers at the school under Wood’s guidance (and various admissions and student life employees, when needed) provide answers according to their various areas of expertise and post them accordingly. The platform is now on every student-blogger’s own blog; it can also be added to a student’s Facebook page.

Formspring carries with it a number of advantages. Though it has largely been overlooked by adults, many teens are already very familiar with it. With over 16 million user accounts and 40 million unique visitors a month, the web site has facilitated approximately one billion questions asked and answered—most of them to and from teens.

While Formspring functions in a way similar to a school’s more traditional “Frequently Asked Questions” web page, it does so in a more dynamic way, and students have the opportunity to have questions answered by their own peers.

Students are also much more comfortable asking questions about campus life anonymously than they are with an admissions representative on a crowded campus tour. Wood finds that the questions are widely varied, specific, and serious, and that her initial concern about students’ asking a lot of inappropriate questions has largely gone unfounded—though she is able to prescreen questions before they are posted online. Wood can also track the answers her team posts, giving her an opportunity to add any necessary details.

To learn more, check out our video with Wood here, or connect with her directly on twitter: @MalloryWood.


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