On Monday, LinkedIn launched pages for universities, extending the platform it uses to represent companies to institutions of higher learning. 200 colleges and universities began the program, including NYU and the University of Michigan.
The pages work almost like company pages. There's a big spot for photographs of campus and an ability to "announce" things. There's a place to list notable alumni. The pages display career information for the colleges, based on LinkedIn's data. Non-students can ask the university questions and "it" can respond:
The site's marketing materials talk about this as a recruitment tool, and they guilelessly depict high schoolers asking well-framed, well-informed questions of colleges. Christina Allen, the head of LinkedIn product development, told The Next Web that she hoped it would help high school seniors learn about the right college for them:
For the past few years, I'd watched my daughter and her friends struggle with these choices. For the most part, they were flying blind. Some knew what they wanted to study - but had no visibility into the career options that would result. Others had a career in mind, like my daughter, but little idea which school would best help them get there. The lucky ones had experienced family or friends who could help them navigate these decisions. For the others, it was truly a shot in the dark.
Perhaps high schoolers will flock to the service, making LinkedIn the true home for life-long résumé enrichment. Perhaps not: I have more faith in university Tumblrs. Regardless, the service seems highly unlikely to eliminate the knowledge deficit between high school seniors and college admissions departments, as that deficit springs from the distance between academic programs and a college's marketing, and from the general difficulty of imagining life in a new place.
I suspect that LinkedIn will prove a superior recruitment tool not for future undergrads, but for the grad school-bound, as career-minded adults are more likely to have already joined the service.
Each social network mirrors social life in its own strange way, and LinkedIn's version of life reflects what's corporate-friendly, socially-respectable, and earnestly-branded. We know that the institutions we're affiliated with help define who we are, and universities, like companies, are a packet of status, a reflection of privilege, an explanation of how one spends one's time: They are, in short, a Thing, and a LinkedIn-sort-of Thing at that.