It's getting more and more difficult to attract the attention of kids these days. Now colleges, too, must make the effort to keep up with the times. The University of Pennsylvania invited actor Kal Penn to teach, Brown is adopting Tweeting in class and Harvard has even tried putting out a clothing line.
A recent New York Times article reported that MIT, Wellesley, Amherst, Yale and numerous other colleges are beginning to feature student-written blogs on their official websites.
I had half-joked that it was unjust for Harvard rather than Brown, the "most fashionable" Ivy League university, to have a clothing line, and a rather formulaic and poorly designed one at that. Learning that we've been left behind on the blogging trend as well seems an even greater tragedy.
Given the technical troubles we've been having with Banner, Mocha and other school-related websites, perhaps our tardiness is for good reason. Plus, with our reputation as the pot-smoking hipster of the Ivy League, blog links on our main Web site could be seen as a bit too predictable.
However, technical impediments and stereotype affirmations aside, student blogs could actually be extremely helpful in both enriching our school's image and fostering a greater sense of community among the student body.
Students narrowing down their college choices these days do not want to rely merely on U.S. News rankings and the usual, impersonal laundry list of location, class size and programs of study.
Studies show that about 60 percent of high school-age students use the Internet for "education-related topics," including college planning. They want to see what's behind all the smiling faces in glossy college brochures, to know about the social scene, surrounding college town, dorm conditions and all the ups and downs of student life that aren't obvious from looking at a school's main Web site.
The influence of sites like College Confidential cannot be ignored. Students and parents use these sites extensively to discuss "insider" information, which is a mix of rumors and tips from current college students.
College visits can only help so much. They can meld into a confusing blur and are often too short to allow students to form an accurate view of a school. The most honest and personalized impressions they can get before they arrive are definitely from students on campus.
Student blogs are an accessible, reliable resource for snapshots of campus life and valuable interactions between students. MIT student blogs receive hundreds of comments from prospective students, and many current students claim that the blogs were an important influence in their college decision.
As of now, it seems that the only Web address for community interaction at Brown is Facebook, and prospective students looking to get an idea of what Brown is like have limited access to the network.
Although Brown does boast a wide array of student-run newspapers and literary journals, the information provided is scattered across many different Web sites. The curious will more often than not be unable to locate many of these sources of student opinions.
Student blogs would not only aid prospective students but the community at Brown as well. Information and opinions get posted instantly, with no editing or approval necessary and facilitating a rapid exchange of ideas between bloggers and readers. Bloggers could write about whatever topics they wish, whether they be serious screeds on politics and school policies or more lighthearted ruminations about daily routines, fashion trends on campus and where to find cheap, good meals on Thayer.
As I've mentioned before, there isn't really a central Internet space at which Brown students can interact with each other. Not many students frequent Brown's Daily Jolt page, with useful postings mostly limited to unwanted items for sale.
The time we spend on Facebook and Twitter reading the same people's feeds over and over can easily be supplemented with something new. Many students would probably jump at the chance to blog for Brown, and I'll bet that quite a few of us already have personal blogs.
I'm sure that the usual misgivings about offensive or poorly-written postings will not apply to us. We probably won't have to worry about students self-censoring too much either, given the many examples set by outspoken student groups on campus.
The Internet has become undeniably important to fostering communication and disseminating information. Student blogs can help us get to know people that we might otherwise never meet. They can expand not only our conceptions, but also those of prospective students, parents, and anyone else who wants to know about what students think, feel, and care about here at Brown.
Ivy Chang '10 had to walk uphill both ways to find out about colleges back in her day. She can be reached at