Pinned Down:  Using Pinterest in Academic Advising

Pinned Down: Using Pinterest in Academic Advising


If I’m being honest with myself, I spend way too much time on Pinterest.  Crafts, travel plans, tips for painting my house, inspirational quotes, funny memes – I pin it all.

My Pinterest board is a direct reflection of who I am and who I’m aspiring to be.  I don’t have super flat abs (yet) – but I do have a workout board where I pin lots of work-out ideas.  I haven’t traveled to Ireland (yet), but I do have pins of all the places in Ireland I want to visit and pins on how to travel to Ireland on a budget.  The inspirational quotes are sometimes just what I need to make it through the day when I think working full-time as an advisor, finishing a master’s degree, having a clean home, and making sure my family is happy and healthy, has engulfed too much of my existence and I’m suffocating as an individual … (Everyone feels like that right?)…

And on those days where I feel like I’m just not reaching my academic suspension student or my student who wants to major in a GPA restrictive program — but hasn’t made above a 2.2 in three semesters and won’t consider an alternate plan — I know there’s got to be a way to engage them; to help them interact with me on their level and maybe even find out something about themselves in the process.


Often students pick up new technology before we do – they’re already on the Twitter bandwagon before I even figure out that a hashtag is the new fancy communication term for what we called the number sign.  It makes sense that all of my students know what Pinterest is and how to use it – but are they using it to its full capacity?  Could it influence their academics? How they choose majors? How they prepare for college? How they interact with their professors, advisors, and each other?

Hashtag absolutely.

Pinterest is one of the most effective tools advisors can use to reach their students.  If you’re practicing intrusive advising and you’re sold on the concept of meeting students where they are to better influence student engagement, then Pinterest use in your advising practices is a must. Not to mention, it doesn’t cost a penny. No direct mail outs, no funds spent on funky t-shirts – just engagement through an already active social media website. (Hello extra dollars to spend on yummy meals while attending next year’s NACADA conference!)

Where can Pinterest be utilized? Here are some ideas:

  • Discovery! (major exploration) – Something I have been implementing during our Discovery! Process (The process we use to help students find their best-fit major) is the creation of a Pinterest page and/or the addition of educational boards to student’s existing page.  One of the boards needs to be an ‘All about Me’ and can have no fewer than 20 pins that describe who the student believes himself to be. This is an awesome way to connect with a student! If you’re like me, and you have over 300 students in your student population alone, being able to look through their page and connect on something they believe is inherent to who they are is huge. HUGE.  Next, have them create a board with all the possible jobs in which they think they might be interested.  The pictures help – because Pinterest is so visual, students are more apt to view a picture of a career or major in which they find interest, and then click further to learn more about it. Ask any student — text upon text in their research to find a major is less appealing than scanning through pictures of a major/career they searched.
  • Recovery (students on academic probation/suspension)
  • Engagement and Motivation – Pinterest in interactive by nature.  One of our most followed pin boards is the Encouragement board. This board has motivational sayings on it, but in colorful, meaningful pictures. Students will often repin these motivational sayings, and then post them to their Facebook accounts.  Everyone needs some encouragement, right? And (apparently), it’s only truly encouraging if you can share it with 10 million people via social media sites.
  • Connection to Professors, Teaching Assistants and Campus Resources — Professors often will create pins of articles they have written to gain more readership. Linking to Campus Resources is a big deal. Currently the Texas Tech University Advising Pinterest board is also following Texas Tech Student Disability Services, Texas Tech Alumni Association, and even Texas Tech Athletics.  Trust me, every school has an athletics Pinterest page and your students are already following it and repining from it – create traffic to your own site and resources by following them as well.  In turn, have the Athletics department (and others) follow your page and: BAM!, Students think that everything you pin is relevant and useful.
  • Connect students to internships and jobs opportunities: Pinterest is the place for brand marketing, and the industries have caught on.  World leaders in different industries are marketing themselves on Pinterest, and creating an attraction to their internship opportunities. Have a student that’s going into an Engineering field? Boeing has prospective internships on Pinterest.
  • Help Students with Study Skills:  Our students are following out Study Tips board and repining. We have the students who repin early in the semester and try to use some of these resources to help themselves before their first round of tests, and then we have the other students who Google ‘Studying for Finals’ one night (probably the night before the final) and find our board and the pins we have that concern studying for finals. Either way, we are helping those students.  We also have tips for time management and organization on this board – and the students appreciate it.  Some students might not implement all of the ideas that they pin, but it’s a start. First steps towards academic success are crucial.
  • Healthy Lifestyle: As an advisor, you know that a student’s lifestyle and choices completely influence their academic success.  For example, obesity can cause negative self-image which can cause depression, which can cause 10-15 hours of sleep and then, Oops! … your student has missed his last three Chemistry classes in a row. There’s no way he can catch up so he takes an F in the class, receives a 1.8 GPA for the semester, and now cannot qualify for the GPA restrictive program he was wanting.  Then the worst happens: he’s placed on academic suspension, and because he is still depressed throughout this process, he has decided not to return to the university. It sounds melodramatic, but it happens all the time.  We have a board called ‘Healthy Lifestyle’ that has full work-out pins and tips for handling stress.  We also have a ‘College Snacks & Recipes’ pinboard that has lots of recipes that are fast and simple for college students, as well as snack suggestions for in between classes, and what the healthiest snacks are for keeping in your tiny dorm fridge.  This information is relevant and the students pin it. They know that we care about everything that influences their academic success. This is the very definition holistic advising.

There are lots of other ways Pinterest could be utilized in the advising process – the ones listed above are just a few.

Why Pinterest?

Facebook is where you express who you are now; Pinterest is where you express who you are in the future,” (Cho, 2012).

As advisors we provide resources to help our students succeed in the university system and beyond. We’re advocates for their future – and if Pinterest is a resource that can depict who students want to be in the future, why wouldn’t we use that media channel to further their outlook?

Pinterest engages its users on a “more emotional level,” (Cho, 2012).

We try to reach students on a more personal level – to let them know they’re not numbers and figures in our massive university system, but individuals with specific aspirations, skill sets, and motivations. If we use Pinterest as an advising tool, student engagement and the ethos of that engagement will foster academic success in spades.

Unlike Facebook’s statuses, or Twitter’s tweets, Pinterest lacks the in-your-face-minute-to-minute update culture condoned by other sites, and fosters creativity, governed by a positive attitude and collective idea sharing,” Evan Sharp, creator of Pinterest, University Chicago graduate.

What?! Force a student to be creative? To think outside the box about the way he/she studies, views certain majors, internships and careers? Isn’t that what we’re trying to do with our undecided students all the time? (P)Interesting.

Pinterest can be a creative way to spread word about campus events, illustrate school pride, or share helpful advice.  For college applicants, checking out a prospective university’s Pinterest can even be a way to gauge the culture of the school before committing,” – John Forlenby 10 Colleges Pinning on Pinterest December 11, 2012.

What if your advising Pinterest page is the first thing a prospective student sees about the University? What if while searching your university website he enters “How to Choose a Major” and up pops your Pinterest page?  At that moment, engagement has already begun.

As Technology continues to require a larger presence in our everyday lives, social media will become a necessity for classroom engagement,” Elizabeth Heatley, Using Social Media to Enhance Student Learning.

Technology/social media is already integral to the lives of our students and if it is becoming a necessity for classroom engagement, then we, as advisors cannot afford to be without it in our engagement process.  Advising theory is moving towards the idea that advising is a form of teaching – so why not utilize a resource so many educators are finding useful and engaging in the classroom? We need to meet students where they are, and waiting to jump on the Pinterest train is just not an option.
Five Facts about Pinterest

  1. Pinterest is the 3rd most popular networking site according to a 2012 Digital Marketer: Benchmark & Trend report.
  2. Pinterest reached 10 million unique monthly visitors faster than any single website in history, according to the internet statistic gurus as Comscore.
  3. The average person spends 98 minutes on Pinterest per visit.
  4. Pinterest has had over 23 million unique visitors (meaning, not repeat traffic) in a month.
  5. From Mark 2011 to March 2012, Pinterest unique visitors grew by 4,377%.

Bonus Fact: Pinterest drives more traffic than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined.

Hashtag No-way?!  Way.

How to Employ Pinterest

TTU University Advising certainly does not claim to be the authority on how to employ Pinterest in the academic advising process; certainly there are others who can use Pinterest in ways we haven’t even thought of yet (And we would really welcome those ideas).  Here’s just a few examples of what we’re doing:

  1. Every time we pin something to any board within our Pinterest page we use (ever-popular) hashtags to incorporate which CAS (Council for the Advancement of Standards) standards the Pin meets.  We don’t want to pin anything to the advising board without making sure that the reason behind that pin relates to overall student engagement and success.  Example: #LeadershipDevelopment, #Diversity
  2. We create (not just pin, but we also create our own) pins that are specific to our office or are helpful to all students across campus.  For example, we created a pin for Blackboard tutorials, as well as a pin of the youtube video we use to teach students how to use our Visual Schedule Builder system.
  3. We link our Pinterest page to our main webpage, our blog website, Facebook and Twitter accounts.  Anytime I student visits our website or blog, they are able to see not only that we have a Pinterest page for their use, but also our most recent pins.  Linking all of our social media sites with our main website and blog is paramount to our engagement and website traffic. Again, because Pinterest is the most visual of the social media sites, it’s driving more traffic.
  4. We have a private Pinterest board (you can have private boards that students can’t see) just for advisors.  We can pin books and/or articles we found helpful and that we think other advisors should read, we can pin humorous memes to help brighten other advisor’s days, and we can pin helpful links to NACADA, and other advising organizations.  If you’re looking for cross-campus collaboration between other advisors and faculty, Pinterest is a great tool.
  5. We’re using Pinterest Analytics.  We don’t have to run any reports or upload any software – when you create your Pinterest account as a type of business it will run analytics for you.  You’ll be able to track trends in how many students, advisors, other colleges, etc, like your pins, follow your boards, and repin your stuff.  If your university is looking for measureable achievements, you’ve got it with just a click.
  6. We defined our use of Pinterest in Academic advising and how it fits into our advising mission statement, advising philosophy, and the overall mission statement of Texas Tech University.

Other ideas we’re excited about:

  • Creating a Pinterest board within our page that identifies a major of the month – it would include boards of current professors in that major, job opportunities, activities in that college, job outlook and opportunities of that major, and the creation of pins that have current students at Tech within that major talking about their work load, what to expect, and why they chose it.
  • Pinterest Contests/Challenges.  To encourage exploration and traffic to our office and website, we can create Pinterest challenges for students and offer prizes for the most creative pins.
  • Guest professor pins, Guest student pins.  We want to incorporate our students who have achieved academic success through our processes or overcome academic obstacles through our office, and ask them to be guest pinners, adding things to our board that they believe worked for them.  What an encouragement! We think it would be a great platform for them to share their experiences with other students and possibly mentor other students via technology.
  • Creation of pin boards within our page that are specific to each advisor, so that students can see what each advisor is about … what inspires that advisor and what interests him/her.  So often I have students ask me why I became an academic advisor, and if time permits, I explain – but because of our high student populations, I feel like they don’t get a sense of who I am – which makes them less likely to open up to me in turn.

The bottom line is that we have so many students and such little time to give each student the attention that all truly need and deserve.  Most advisors can agree that the key to student academic success via the advising process is the formation of a meaningful and encouraging relationship with their advisor – a trusted and continuous dialogue. Some students are apprehensive about building this relationship, and as advisors we now have an opportunity to create dialogue with a student in a new way.

Because From Here, It’s Possible.

Cheers & Happy Pinning.

(Scholarly references will be uploaded soon).


2 Responses to “Pinned Down: Using Pinterest in Academic Advising”

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    Just wish to say your article is as surprising. The clarity in your
    post is simply cool and i could assume you’re an expert on this subject.
    Well with your permission allow me to grab your RSS feed to keep up to date with forthcoming
    post. Thanks a million and please carry on the enjoyable work.

    • Maggie Gilchrest-Dunnam

      Of course! We appreciate your input. Look for more information on Pinterest in Advising in October — Maggie will be presenting on it at our National Association of Academic Advisors conference. Also, if you have any questions, feel free to e-mail


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