Earlier this year we launched a website to allow our applicants to talk to each other and our current students. The idea behind it was to create a virtual community of applicants and to allow real students to answer questions about life at Edge Hill. The site is public but only applicants and/or students can contribute. The site we call ‘Hi’ has been a success for us. It’s given us a medium to update applicants with key information about joining us and for students to answer questions/queries directly. It’s not edited, not censored… it’s for applicants to use as they wish.
Last week we saw an example of it doing what it does best! A-level results day and students flocking to the site ready to secure their place and make new friends. Great we thought – result!
Yet with the positives came the negatives. A thread started about students being declined on-campus accommodation… and it didn’t sound good. Clearly we had some disappointed students on our hands and that concerned us.
We’ve made no secret of the fact our applications have risen phenomenally since we acquired University title in 2006. Infact it’s something we’re incredibly proud of but an increase in student numbers has meant whilst we can accommodate most requests we cannot guarantee on-campus accommodation for all first years (see the EHU2020 website for details on our plans for the future). Although applicants are informed of this it’s naturally disappointing news when they find out they haven’t got a place. So they turned to the site – the site we gave them to use as they wish – and shared their frustrations…
However negatives can be turned to positives. We’ve been thrilled to see the site being pro-actively. Firstly from our perspective it’s been great. We’ve been able to respond to individuals quickly and provide them with much needed advice and support. We had already arranged House Hunting Workshops on-campus but by using the site we could inform applicants about these and allow them to use the ‘secure’ off-campus accommodation finder to look for rooms. We’ve also seem some really positive and pro-active applicants too. One particular applicant found a seven bedroom house and started a new thread to get room mates! So people who had never even met before could sort something out together – exactly what a community site should encourage.
In July I gave a presentation at the IWMW entitled “Let the students do the talking…” so you may wonder if I still feel they should?! And my response would be ‘absolutely’. No Uni is without its problems… we can’t pretend everything about starting University will be seamless and effortless but we can ensure we offer our applicants excellent support and the best way to understand what they need is by listening to them!