“Dear Freshman Me” Video: Connecting Grads to the Next Gen

A version of post also appeared on the phenomenal blog, Social Media For Colleges. Check it out for amazing higher ed social media ideas I “borrow” all the time.

This spring, the Chico State social media team cooked up a little something celebrate the graduating students AND welcome freshman in August.

As we all know, seniors are at their most reflective right before Commencement, and it’s the best time to get some sincere and fun content from them. Many of us in higher ed social media are leveraging that in great ways and making fun video or photo projects to celebrate grads, show on the jumbotrons at the ceremonies, etc.

We decided to take it a step further, and see if we could create something that is not only meaningful to outgoing students (and their family/friends), but also to our new students in the fall. Why not look for content with long-term value when you can? So, we stole an idea from YouTube. Earlier this spring, YouTube ran a video and Tumblr campaign in conjunction with International Women’s Day asking their creators (and inspiring users) to make videos giving advice to their younger self. The #DearMe campaign spawned tons of great, funny, sincere videos (details here), and gave me an idea for our grad video.

As Chico State’s Class of 2015 prepared to graduate, we asked, if they could go back, what advice they would give to their freshman self. Watch as they reflect back on lessons learned and those they will carry forward as they enter the working world.

We filmed our #DearMe (Dear Freshman Me) video at Senior Send-off, a BBQ event for graduating seniors about a month before Commencement. We asked them on camera, simply, what would you tell your freshman self? The responses were a mix of silly (“Naps,” declares one senior), practical (“Go to class, ALL THE TIME”), and inspiring (“Don’t let others kill your spark for life and for adventure.”)

The video was a great hit with grads and alums and added nice color to our Commencement coverage. It was successful number-wise, viewed more 11,400 times (FB+YT), and shared 90 times on Facebook, but the real measure, I think, is the people who chimed in on the comments to add their own “Dear Freshman Me” response, or reflect on how much they miss school. Hit that nostalgia/inspiration sweet spot!

But, what I’m most excited about is when I start promoting this video in August for the incoming freshmen! We’ll push it again on social media, and plan to air it on the big screens at our welcome event for new students. You know freshmen would rather hear from their peers/alums than “The University” about how to get the most out of their college experience, and it gives us a chance to repurpose this great Commencement content. Win-win!

If other schools want to replicate the idea, there’s still time! You could use the summer months to solicit video clips (or quotes) from alums, recent and not, and put it together into a nice package for your freshmen in the fall.

Final, and most important note: The video was filmed and edited by my excellent student intern (and class of 2015 grad) Jeff Barron (cameo at 1:10 in the video).

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