When prospective Yale student Obaid Syed needed to talk about the anxieties of the college application process, he turned to his Facebook friend Elihu.
“Dear Elihu, I’m nervous,” Syed wrote last Wednesday on the wall of his friend, whose profile picture shows a bulldog planted on a bar stool, surfing the web on a laptop.
Operating under the alias “Elihu Yale,” the Office of Undergraduate Admissions’ profile on the social networking site Facebook serves as a cyber forum for prospective applicants to connect with current Yale undergraduates while trying to advertise the hipper side of Yale to students worldwide. Liz Kinsley, director of outreach and recruitment for the admissions’ office, said the page primarily aims to answer questions about residential, social and academic life at Yale. And as the college application season moves into full swing, Elihu is fielding more questions than “pokes” from Yale hopefuls.
Behind Elihu Yale’s somewhat nerdy persona — he spends his time reading his favorite book, the Blue Book, and watching Anderson Cooper ’89 on CNN, and his favorite songs include Cole Porter hits and 19th century Yale fight songs — is a staff of 46 student recruitment coordinators, Kinsley said. The coordinators regularly monitor the page, add notes, and upload photos, videos and blog content, she said.
Elihu Yale is among a number of admissions office initiatives seeking to reach out to prospective applicants by connecting them to current undergraduates Kinsley said. And many high school students seem to flock to the familiar networking site to get their pressing application concerns addressed.
“With the Facebook page, it’s a lot more direct and personal, and I feel like my questions will be answered faster,” wrote Sophia Chan, 19, a student at the St. Mary’s School in Shaftsbury. United Kingdom, via Facebook chat.
Chan used the admissions Facebook page last Monday to get an answer to a query about teacher and internship references.
“I did phone once, and it was useful,” Chan chatted. “But when you have a lot of questions, it does feel rushed to be getting all the answers through the phone.”
Jordan Lockwood echoed Chan’s sentiments. The Atlanta, Ga. native who attends the Arlington Christian School, has previously contacted the admissions office via phone and e-mail about how to submit his ACT and SAT scores, but the Facebook page yields a faster response, Lockwood wrote in a Facebook message. He added that he is never sure whom to contact when sending his enquiries via phone or e-mail.
Indeed, another prospective applicant, Daniel Sisgoreo, who attends the College Francais in Toronto, Canada, noted that the queries he posts on the admissions office’s wall are usually answered within 24 hours.
For Alice Kleeman, a college counselor at the Menlo-Atherton High School outside San Francisco, Elihu Yale is simply another novel means of helping students to find the answers they seek.
“The information is all there — you just have to find it,” Kleeman said. “But for most high school students, this is the first time in their lives they have had to do this.”
Elihu Yale currently has 3,806 friends. And ladies, he currently does not list a relationship status.