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Yelp Your Coffee, Yelp Your College

Four stars. Point Loma Nazarene University is only worth four stars, that is, according to Yelp. The review-based app and website were founded in 2004, and between then and December 2018, over 177 million reviews were written, according to statistics on yelp.com.

For PLNU in particular, these reviews range from opinions about religion’s role in higher education to the specific number of fries received with a meal.

You remember the epic college search. There were endless applications, enthusiastic tour guides, free merch galore and the Yelp reviews you checked to help you decide. Okay, so you probably didn’t do that, but you could have! Sure, there’s a lot more to consider when choosing a college than choosing Sunday brunch, but the versatility of Yelp means you could use it for both.

Director of Undergraduate Admissions, Shannon Caraveo, says that the admissions team hasn’t encountered anyone asking specifically about Yelp reviews during the admissions process, but comments that potential students have seen online about PLNU do come up.

“If students have legitimately negative experiences here, I have no problem with them being honest about them,” Caraveo says. “Ideally, I wish they’d come directly to us with those experiences so we can address underlying issues, but even if they choose to make them public, they can serve as a learning experience for us, and hopefully lead to growth.”

While online ratings and reviews are used for many purposes, Caraveo trusts that potential students won’t choose a college solely based on Mike E.’s one-star rating.

Sophomore Natalie Haglan didn’t use Yelp when researching PLNU. She says, “I usually use Yelp when I’m trying to find a place to eat or get coffee or something along those lines, especially if I am in a new place!”

While Ortiz’s four and a half stars are pretty convincing, she says not all reviews are equal, especially when it comes to colleges and universities.

“People are giving their own personal views and probably don’t think to write an unprompted review unless they feel really strongly about something specific,” Haglan says. “Reviews also range from offering the worst experiences people have had, [to] the best, so it can be hard to gauge which reviews are accurate.”

Likewise, Jill Monroe, Director of Public Affairs at PLNU, says there’s a lot to consider, and online reviews are simply different perspectives.

“There are certain challenges translating a ratings system designed to help people find great local businesses into a higher education context,” Monroe says.

That’s not to say that your Yelp-ing is in vain!

Monroe says, “Although Yelp is not a regularly monitored platform from the university’s perspective, in the instances that there are specific issues raised in a review, a direct message approach with the user is most helpful.”

Whether you’re a seasoned Yelp-er or just hearing about it, check out PLNU’s review page. Reviews can also include photos, so you might as well put all those sunset pictures somewhere, right?

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Rebecca Elliott

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