Admissions day calls for technological help came earlier this year

Mark Stinson suspects the influence of texting. Or maybe Facebook, MySpace, even Twitter.

Every March, the IT Express Campus Computing Services Help Desk braces for a surge in calls from people who have applied to enter UC Davis that coming fall and need help accessing their MyAdmissions account. The surge covers two weekdays--the day when the campus posts its decisions at MyAdmissions (and starts sending emails to applicants), and the day after.

This year, IT Express received about 17 percent more calls and emails from applicants during the two-day surge than it did last year. But--here's the puzzle--the volume on the first day, Thursday, March 12, rose 70 percent from a year ago, climbing to 1,395 from 821. (The total for both days this year was 1,965.) Year-to-year volume on the second day rose a more modest 36 percent, from 420 to 570.

"I think it's social media," said Stinson, manager of client services in the Data Center and Client Services area of Information and Educational Technology. He oversees IT Express. "Admission decisions were posted starting at midnight Thursday morning. A few motivated applicants check the site early, post their results on Facebook or text their friends, and social media helps spread the news that the decisions are out. The result is more people checking on Thursday to see if they got in."

Applicants who call IT Express typically seek help with a lost password or forgotten log-in ID.

To some degree, the speculation will interest only those people who track the changing ways students learn about news that interests them. But there's a staffing angle too. IT Express extends its hours to 11 p.m. on the first day of the surge, and brings in people from other parts of Client Services to augment the desk. If the first day is trending busier than the second day, IT Express might want to adjust.

The UC campuses use different methods to notify their applicants, so it's not easy to check the experience of IT Express this month against the experiences at other campuses' help desks.

However, Facebook was clearly a central location for swapping news among UC Davis applicants. As of Monday, March 16, the campus admissions office's Facebook page had gained about 250 to 300 members from the previous Thursday, a gain of about 20 to 25 percent. A search of the site revealed about 45 to 50 wall posts from students who had been accepted or staff who had responded to those posts.

Twitter, a social media tool that hardly existed a year ago, had dozens of posts from applicants on March 12 and 13. The tweets demonstrated the usual mix of responses--"I got into uc davis yay!!!!" "got rejected from UC Davis :(" "So got into UC Davis but no into UCSD stupid"--and by sharing their responses, they helped alert other applicants that UC Davis had announced its decisions.

Stinson said he'll keep these numbers in mind when planning next year's admissions day strategy for IT Express.