Typically, the months before the start of freshman year for new college students are a stressful time, but they've been getting less so in recent years thanks to the growing popularity of social media. Twitter and Facebook have made it possible for incoming freshmen to connect with their fellow students and bond over the coming challenges without meeting face to face.
In an interview with Corpus Cristi Caller-Times, Celestina Encinia, who starts at Texas A&M University's Corpus Cristi campus this fall, says that her anxiety about college was soothed somewhat after she met four fellow freshmen on popular image-sharing site Instagram months before she was supposed to report for orientation. Pooling their worries proved to be a solution for all of them, and now they're less concerned about feeling out of place on move-in day.
Across the country there are incoming college freshmen who use social media sites such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to connect with each other by sharing their thoughts, fears, questions and photos about college life.
Many students have posted images of college acceptance letters, class schedules and school IDs as ways to show the start of their college careers is official.
A&M-Corpus Christi and Texas A&M University-Kingsville use hashtags that include the number 17 to signify the incoming freshman class. The schools also have other hashtags and social media pages they use.
According to Caller-Times' Elaine Marsilio, many students are not waiting for schools to take the lead and are creating their own unofficial groups on Facebook and elsewhere.
It makes sense for a generation that has grown up with social media to use it to make connections in this way. As Diane C. McDonald, the social media executive director at Texas A&M University – College Station explains, they're approaching these milestones in a very organized way by making pages and using hashtags that signal their plans for the coming year and to look for kindred spirits and future classmates.
Joe Kuffner, a media relations professional in Portland, Ore., who maintains a blog dedicated to sharing universities' and colleges' approaches to social media, said some of the most excited people engaging in social media are incoming students.
Colleges are tapping into providing avenues for students to link up through Facebook groups, hashtags and video chats, said Kuffner, who is assistant media relations director for the University of Portland.
He said social media help students become fans of their school and instill what many colleges hope will be a lifelong bond with that community.