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Fake welcome groups greet incoming students

By Sarah Klein

Across the country, high school seniors are finishing up applications, awaiting admission decisions with fingers crossed, or even hearing about early acceptances. Colleges and universities are slowly but surely filling spots for their classes of 2015. And, as always, students are turning to Facebook for news and information.

In response, numerous Facebook “welcome groups” have sprouted up, urging incoming students to “connect” with fellow classmates. Many of the pages for the groups include the logos of the schools and official-looking photographs of campuses and school buildings. But, as the New York Times reports, no matter how official they may look, these pages are most likely not authorized by the universities themselves.

The company behind the groups is called Roomsurf.com, an organization that offers incoming students a for-pay service to match them up with potential roommates. Various news sources estimate there are between 150 and 175 such Facebook groups, including ones for New York University, Tufts, Middlebury, and the University of Texas.

University administrators noticed a uniformity among the Facebook groups, including the names of the creators. Eventually, they were traced to Justin Gaither, one of the co-founders and the current CEO of Roomsurf.com. As a result, some university staff have complained that the groups and the Facebook pages constitute “deceptive marketing tactics.”

(By Wednesday, some of the pages were disclosing more information, possibly in response to the Times’ article, which reported that Facebook was “investigating” the situation. The page for Wesleyan University, one of the schools mentioned in the Times, now includes a disclaimer and a statement that “the creator is a representative of Roomsurf.com, a college roommate matching program.”)

Similar pages popped up in the past for the classes of 2013 and 2014, and again, admissions officers fought to have those pages shut down.

It’s too early to know if the pages for the class of 2015 will be shuttered, but students should thoroughly check out any college Facebook groups before joining. In some cases, the only people they will get to meet will be annoying marketers!

Comment by Kim, posted 8/11/2011, 8:19 PM:

I met my roommate on Roomsurf.com! It's a great service and people need to stop bashing them for no reason. The groups they made are the only reason I heard about them.
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