1. Online resources

Of the sites listed in the survey, students said that CollegeView, College Confidential, and U.S. News & World Report were the resources least used to review college information online. Instead, Zinch, colleges’ own websites, College Prowler, and Scholarships.com were the most heavily accessed online resources.

The report notes that these online content-aggregating sites are often “the first and last stop” on a student’s college search.

2. Scholarships

According to the report, the most requested content from online sites was scholarship information, which is perhaps not that shocking, considering the nation’s crisis with student loan debt.

General campus information like tuition and majors are also hot topics.

3. Rising social media sites

Though Facebook is still the most widely-used social media platform for helping students research their potential colleges, the platform is on the decline (85 percent accessed Facebook for information in 2013, compared to 88 percent in 2012).

Instead, prospective students are beginning to use platforms such as Instagram (26 percent increase since 2012) and Twitter (15 percent increase since 2012) to better help them select their college or university.

Perhaps most revealing, nearly two-thirds (67 percent) of students use social media to research colleges, and nearly 75 percent find it influential.

Also, the percent of students who like or follow a considered college on social media increased by 23 points from 2012-13.

4. Online conversations

67 percent of students say social media conversation influences their decision on where to enroll, and Facebook still ranks first among social media sites visited for their conversations. However, Twitter is in close second: 31 percent of students search for specific hashtags related to their college search.

5. Groups for admitted students

A recent feature of many college and university social networks, groups for admitted students, is considered a positive for students, with 63 percent of survey respondents saying they would likely join this group, and almost all students surveyed who had already joined an acceptance group say the experience was rewarding.

(Next page: 4 takeaways for colleges and universities)