Recruitment in the 21st Century: University of Cincinnati harnesses social media to create pathways for local students

“I know I’m supposed to go to college after high school, but is it really worth it?” This question, asked by high school student Patience Johnson in the University of Cincinnati (UC) Academic Health Center’s new recruitment video, is common among urban youth who lack college-educated role models. High school students in distressed communities may find it difficult to gauge the value of a college degree or see themselves in career fields that require higher education.

For urban health profession schools, this is an emergent problem. These schools must produce graduates who are willing to work in disadvantaged urban communities and provide quality health care to diverse patient populations. In order to succeed, schools have begun to “grow their own” workforce by expanding the pipeline of students from the local community.

The UC Academic Health Center has transformed its recruitment practices to focus on this audience. Students might not be considering a career in health care – or even a college education – but they are thinking about what to do with their lives and what’s next after graduation. The UC Health Care Pathways social media campaign, which launched last week, seeks to increase the number of underrepresented students from the local area who apply and are accepted to the university. “Underrepresented” is broadly defined and includes racial and ethnic minorities as well as students who are low-income, educationally disadvantaged, or first generation college students. The campaign builds upon the social media success of UC President Santa Ono to dig deep into the local community, reaching more students from disadvantaged backgrounds with the qualities and skills needed for success in the health professions.

To help students choose a field of study, UC used the evidence-based RIASEC vocational personality test to create an online quiz modeled after the immensely popular BuzzFeed quizzes. At the end of the quiz, students are provided with targeted information about health professions that may be a good fit, and are invited to sign up for email updates. Student Affairs staff in each Academic Health Center college are then able to download contact information for all students interested in their college and conduct targeted outreach. UC is promoting the video and quiz through direct viewing sessions at local high schools, in addition to extensive online promotion via social media.

Ultimately, UC aims to help local high school students understand the value of a UC education, see themselves in a health care career, and believe that a degree from UC is achievable. By showing examples of local student success, UC hopes students will start to think: “there are people like me who did this, so I can do it too.”

Check out the video and take the quiz!

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