The Washington Post

Collegiate blogging: How do you avoid being lame?

There are blogging presidents who write about campus issues, budget concerns and higher-ed issues. Student affairs officials and deans of students use blogs to inform students of policy changes or to give spring break safety advice.

Most admissions offices have blogs, where staffers and current students explain the process and campus life to prospective students and their parents.

Librarians blog about cool new ways to do research. And professors and faculty members blog about their research (and, occasionally, complain about not having tenure).

Even cafeteria chefs and dining services workers blog about their favorite dishes.

Oh! And then there are all of the student blogs: Student newspaper and magazine blogs. Student government blogs. Start-up campus news blogs. Study abroad blogs. Summer internship blogs.

So, so many blogs — and who is reading all of them? Which ones are popular and why? What works?

I was online on May 5 to chat about collegiate blogging with three seasoned bloggers: Patricia McGuire , the president of Trinity Washington University; Daniel G. Creasy , an associate director of undergraduate admissions at Johns Hopkins University; Lauren Hockenson , a senior at Boston University who is the publisher of The Quad.

You can read a full transcript of the chat, but here are a few of the things we discussed:

Ms. McGuire: Does your staff write and post your blog or do you do it all yourself?

Patricia McGuire: Nope, I write every word myself, except for the comments or input that students or others send me, in which case I use quotes. I have a fabulous staff, by the way, and they’re so good that they let me do things on my own without prior editing. (THAT could make other presidents jealous!)

Daniel, has your blog turned you into an admissions office celeb?

Daniel Creasy: To some extent I have become a pseudo celebrity in the world of Admissions. I use the moniker Admissions_Daniel for all my blogs and there are many people who do visit Johns Hopkins looking to meet me... It is surprising when I meet someone and they know the name of my dog, my favorite sports teams, etc. ... I just have to remember that people do read my blog.

Why do you think it is so important for university presidents to take time out of their busy day to write a blog?

Patricia McGuire: Most administrators will tell you that while we love our work --- truly! --- what we spend a lot of time doing is solving other people’s problems. That’s what administration is all about. So, every once in a while, stepping back to think about ideas, big issues and the humor or perversity in society helps to create perspective. I don’t have time to do a great deal of research, but for my blog, I always research the topics so there’s a bit of intellectual excitement when I have to learn about something new. I also think it’s vitally important for college presidents to be known for more than just raising money or being wheeled out for events --- we should be intellectual leaders and articulate our moral points of view. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree, but it does mean that we actually practice the art of leadership.

Lauren, when college officials try launching blogs, what can they do to avoid being boring? What would students want to read on such blogs?

Lauren Hockenson: I think the biggest thing they can do is keep their ear on the ground and their fingers on the pulse of the student body. Becoming linked in to the student-generated blog community is one way to do so. Currently, The Quad is partnering with Boston University Public Relations on a series entitled “The Senior Bucketlist.” Essentially, my writers and I pick one thing that an underclassmen or prospective student should do before graduating BU... BUPR gave us the freedom to come up with the content, and we cross-promote to get people onto BUPR’s new blog, BU Now. The result, from my point of view, has been really positive...

Should prospective students be maintaining blogs?

Daniel Creasy: As social media has taken off over the last couple of years this has become a frequent topic of conversation ... should a high school student’s online presence matter in the admissions review process? There is a lot of debate about the topic and I have seen opinions across the spectrum. Personally, for me it comes down to a practical answer. I have over 1,500 applications to review in a very short three month period of time. I do not have the time to be “googling” applicants or looking them up on Facebook. If a student supplied a blog address or Web link I consider it supplemental material, which means I will glance at it. So, no I don’t think prospective students should be maintaining blogs to give them an edge in the admissions process; spend that time on working on those essays and getting involved.


Again, you can read the full transcript, here. (Note: Some of the questions and answers above have been edited for length, typos and clarity.) Every Thursday at 1 p.m., I host an online chat called Campus Overload, where we discuss all sorts of topics relating to campus life. Make sure to stop by!

Can’t get enough Campus Overload? You can also fan the blog on Facebook and follow Jenna on Twitter. And if you are gearing up for a summer internship, check out The Post’s Intern City.

Jenna Johnson is a political reporter who is covering the 2016 presidential campaign.


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