LinkedIn Builds Social Media Bridge Between Teens and Higher Education

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by Ronald Roach

LinkedInIn making its online professional networking platform relevant to a new audience, social media giant LinkedIn is set to lower the age for participation from 18 to 14 next month with the aim of providing the means by which colleges and universities can reach potential students.

The initiative kicked off Monday with LinkedIn announcing University Pages, a new platform feature that includes extensive institutional profiles at which LinkedIn users can connect with school staff members and alumni. More than 200 schools have developed University Pages profiles and have begun to use them as LinkedIn prepares to open its platform for younger users.

Schools with University Pages profiles include New York University, University of California San Diego, University of Michigan, Villanova University, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Illinois and Albion College. Over the next several weeks, hundreds of additional schools will debut their University Pages profiles, according to LinkedIn.

Christina Allen, LinkedIn’s director of product management, described the University Pages feature as “one cornerstone of our strategy to help students at every critical milestone from campus to fulfilling, successful careers.”

“We believe University Pages will be especially valuable for students making their first big decision about where to attend college. Therefore, beginning on September 12, we will be making LinkedIn available to high school students who can use LinkedIn to explore schools worldwide, greatly expand their understanding of the careers available, and get a head start on building a network of family and friends to help guide them at every milestone,” Allen wrote in a Linkedin blog.

Users of University Pages will be able to get updates on school news, learn how many of the school’s alumni are on LinkedIn and explore the organizations where the graduates are working. In a section called “Explore Careers,” students can find out about individuals who have attended a particular school and what those individuals have done after graduation.

Julie Inouye, a LinkedIn spokesperson, says LinkedIn stands out from other social media platforms, such as Facebook, due to the alumni database it has developed from its traditional users, who are typically working professionals.

“We have all of this great insight and data because of the LinkedIn members that have gone to these schools,” Inouye told The Huffington Post.

David Lawrence, the associate director of digital media strategy at Albion College, said the Albion, Mich.-based college is one of the 200 institutions that were invited to get an early start on its University Pages profile. That recently completed page has already provided more than 8,000 alumni automated Albion College news and information updates, adding to the extensive outreach efforts the college already conducts with its alumni, according to Lawrence.

“The alumni outreach has been going pretty strong, but our next step is to build the [University Pages] platform for current students,” he explained. “We expect to do more outreach and training and tutorials on how current students can use LinkedIn to promote themselves.”

Lawrence is cautious about speculating on how popular Linkedin will become among the 14- to 17-year-olds who will be able to use the service next month. “I think LinkedIn has to do some cultural shifting in convincing teenagers that this is an important thing to do and promote this as a college research tool. That’s an uphill battle, and I wish them lots of luck,” he said.

One of the many schools now completing a University Pages profile is Morehouse College, a historically Black private college based in Atlanta. Morehouse communications staff members are working with LinkedIn officials to build out the school’s page, which is expected to be more extensive than its current LinkedIn organizational profile.

While it remains to be seen just how much high school students will utilize the Morehouse page, school officials expect that alumni and other constituencies will readily benefit from the profile page features and tools.

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