Freshmen Find Friends on Facebook

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Bonnie Koenn -- ARC's Facebook group helps freshmen connect.

Facebook is not only a great way for current students to socialize, but also a fun and easy way for freshman to connect, California Baptist University found.

Steve Neilsen, director of student retention, created a group entitled ‘Freshmen at California Baptist University’ on Facebook in 2010. Prior to utilizing Facebook to connect freshmen, CBU used another social networking site with an outside company, made specifically for incoming CBU.

Neilsen found that Facebook’s group function is a great way to get the new students connected.

“It’s a way for the students who are going to be freshmen in the fall to get to know each other over the summer, before they get here so that hopefully by the time they do get here in the fall they already have friends, met their room mate or the people in their focus group,” Neilsen said.

The Academic Resource Center introduced the group to students during Step Ahead events, which are nearly day-long informational sessions put on by Campus Life. Not only does the Facebook group help connect the freshmen, but it also serves as a place where they can get answers to their questions by ARC and Student Services staff members, FOCUS leaders, Resident Advisors, etc. which are also part of the group.

“This definitely makes the transition to college that much more easier,” Anderson, freshmen and kinesiology major said.

The group has worked well over the last several years and has been working even better this year. Some students ask questions, others look for common interests and others even connect on other social networking sites or Skype. Some even planned a trip to the beach.

“This group has given me the chance to meet a lot of people virtually and to connect with other students living in my area. I have had opportunities to Skype with many of them,” Anderson said.

The ARC uses the group to advertise their various academic and finance workshops during the summer and throughout the year. The advertising helps the ARC show the students what they do and what their services are.

“That’s the main way we have contact with the incoming freshmen over the summer before they get here, other than at the Step Ahead events,” Neilsen said.

The group will be kept the whole year and at the end of this next school year the ARC will change the name of the group to “Sophomores at California Baptist University.”

“Students can still choose to be apart of that same group if they want to continue to use it that way,” Neilsen said.

Tracy Ward, dean of academic services, originally coordinated the first networking site with an anonymous outside company.
“Initially, the reason that we started reaching out to students through social network sites was that we wanted to provide an environment where students were already comfortable interacting to connect them with one another. At first, we used a ‘home grown’ site that was restricted to first-time freshmen at CBU,” Ward said.

But with Facebook’s rising popularity and acceptance by the campus community, the ARC made the change to a Facebook group.

“We used a Facebook group for the place on Facebook where new students could find one another. We have found that utilizing Facebook has helped to ease the transition to college for students as they are able stay connected with friends and family from their home communities while getting to know students at CBU,” Ward said.

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