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Ringling College of Art + Design Welcomes New Students With Virtual Hub

“The Social Wall Helps Us Connect With Students Because It Gives Us a Way to See Who Is Participating in Our Event.”

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A young curly-haired person with glasses and wearing a bright yellow button down is carrying a stack of folders and books.

Ringling College of Art + Design was part of our roundup blog post in early 2020 when many universities had to switch to virtual commencement ceremonies on the fly. This time, Ringling is back with a virtual event and campaign to welcome new students who will start at the university in autumn.

For Ringling’s Accepted Student Day (ASD), everything comes together in a virtual hub on the website. It’s a welcome hub for new students that includes all sorts of information, from career and health services to residence life, a virtual tour, live Q&A events and a social wall.

We talked to Cayla Miraglia, Social Media Specialist at Ringling College of Art + Design, to learn more about how they engage and interact with students using social media. 

Cayla Miraglia

Cayla Miraglia

Social Media Specialist, Ringling College of Art + Design

This isn’t the first time you’ve set up a social wall for students at Ringling. What benefits do you see of using social walls as a university?

Social Walls are a fantastic way to stay connected during these challenging times. It gives the students and their families a sense of community. The social wall helps keep our students excited and engaged for events and makes them feel involved.

Ringling College is a place where we want to put the students first, so by giving them the opportunity to share their experiences on social media through the social wall, we feel like we are achieving that.

Could you tell us a bit more about the microsite you’ve set up for your incoming students?

Our Accepted Student Day (ASD) 2021 online event was very successful for its second year. We first established the look and feel for ASD 2020 when we had to quickly adapt and pivot to an online event at the beginning of the pandemic in the spring of 2020. Under normal circumstances, we would host an ASD event on campus to celebrate those students who have been accepted to Ringling College for the upcoming fall. Even though we could not gather in person for the past two years, we felt it was still very important to celebrate and recognize our accepted students.

The ASD landing page is “invite-only”. Students and their families can watch video content from our Campus Life and Academic departments, as well as participate in live Zoom Q&A sessions on the event day. Students reacted very positively to the online experience, participating in all Zoom sessions and connecting with each other through our social wall. It was a great way to celebrate our incoming Class of 2025!

Screenshot of Ringling’s Accepted Student Day microsite, specifically the Live Q&A schedule, which shows various Q&A sessions aimed at various target groups that one can click on to join.
Live Q&A sessions for Accepted Student Day at Ringling College of Art + Design.

How are you using social media to welcome new students?

Our social media strategy to welcome new students has been a huge success! On top of using the social wall, we have an ongoing campaign where we feature students who got accepted by reposting their photo on our social media platforms. We use this form of User Generated Content to help the accepted student feel a part of the community from the moment they get their acceptance letter.

Ringling College’s repost on Instagram of a post by future “Photography and Imaging” student Samantha Sanchez. The photo shows a smiling person with glasses and shoulder-length dark hair holing up a colourful “Ringling said YES” poster in front of their torso and looking straight at the camera. The caption reads: Celebrate that your #RinglingBound! One of the first of many accomplishments on your #RinglingJourney ✨ (📸: Samantha Sanchez, Photography and Imaging)
Source: Instagram

We encourage all students who got accepted to take a photo with their admissions package they received in the mail and post it on social media using #RinglingBound. This effort has been widely successful in getting the students excited and the prospective students interested because they are seeing people just like them on our page, which might give them the encouragement to apply.

Ringling College’s repost on Instagram of a post by future “Computer Animation” student Susanna Alan. The photo shows a person with long whitish-blonde hair in a ponytail and a large black hoodie with a cartoon print on it. They’re holding up and looking proudly at a colourful poster that says “Ringling said YES”. The caption reads: There is no better feeling than saying YES to making your dreams come true. What are some questions you have about applying to #RinglingCollege? Reserve your spot for an information session with admissions TODAY by using the link in bio.  #RinglingSaidYes #ComputerAnimation #CollegeAcceptance (📸: Susanna Alan, Compuer Animation)
Source: Instagram

We also worked closely with Student Designers inside the Ringling College Design Center to create Accepted Student Day Facebook and Instagram AR filters, which was a fun way to encourage students to get excited while also bringing engagement to our page. Digital presence is more important than ever in efforts to gain the attention of new students, and we’ve been listening to our audience to give them a platform where they can feel connected with the school, even if they can’t physically be with us.

How does the social wall help you connect with students?

The social wall helps us connect with students because it gives us a way to see who is participating in our event. We get to put a face to the students and get to see their personality shine through in our event. 

Screenshot of Ringling’s Accepted Students Day microsite showing a popup of the embedded social media wall. The posts on the wall show happy people’s faces with Ringling’s social media stickers added and showing off their acceptance packs.
The social wall is linked prominently on the Ringling Accepted Students Day microsite, where it pops up as an overlay when clicked.

The social wall brings a sense of community to the students and the faculty and also helps the students connect with each other. I feel as if social walls are such an important part of our social media strategy now that we plan on using them for all events, even post-pandemic!

How has the pandemic influenced how things are done at Ringling College? Are you creating more virtual hubs for students now?

During the pandemic, Ringling College has harnessed the creativity of our students, faculty, and staff to offer in-person, hybrid, and remote access courses, all while maintaining the health and safety of our campus community.

Online and interactive programming from Student Life and our Center for Diversity and Inclusion has been ramped up, and our Student Health Center has created an option for virtual medical and counseling appointments. Ringling has established a new varsity Esports team, and our multiple social channels have been instrumental in keeping our students informed, connected, and engaged.

Engage more and engage better with the help of social media

Social media and social walls, in particular, are a great way for brands of all kinds to up their game. This obviously goes for everyone and not just universities: social media helps keep engagement up. It gives you an easy way to interact with the people who care about your brand. In Ringling’s case, those people are predominantly the students, both incoming and leaving, but also alumni, faculty and parents of students.

Students already use social media to share their experiences relating to university life. By creating and promoting a hashtag to students, Ringling can easily access and collect all that student-generated content. But they don’t just collect it; they also repost it and display it on a social wall.

Reposting students’ posts on Ringling’s owned social media accounts helps incoming students quickly become a part of the university community and further encourages prospective students to apply as well.

Virtual events against FOMO

Given that in-person events are still not possible during an ongoing pandemic, Ringling decided to create a virtual event for Accepted Student Day. This further helps students feel included and perhaps even alleviates the feeling of missing out on important academic milestones.

The virtual event and the microsite offer plenty of information and support, as well as a live interaction in a Q&A format. Meanwhile, the social wall opens the event up and turns it from one-way communication into a conversation. It helps Ringling literally see the students who are participating in the event through their social media posts. But the social wall also allows students to connect with other students in a meaningful way, long before they will meet on campus in autumn.

As a side-effect of the pandemic, many universities have expanded virtual services just like Ringling College of Art + Design has done. And, ultimately, that’s not a terrible idea because making medical services, counselling and other support services available online contributes to a more inclusive life for students of all walks of life. So it’s likely that additional virtual offerings will remain available, even once the pandemic is over.

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