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15 Universities That Are Nailing It on Instagram (And What You Can Learn from Them)

Learn how to liven up your school's Instagram account from these universities that are nailing it on this visual social media platform.


Who’s making an impression online? With Instagram, universities can put forward an image to the world, but Instagram is more than pretty pictures. It can be one of your key student engagement strategies. According to a Pew Research Center study, “53% of young adults ages 18-29 now use the service.” And these young adults don’t just use it once in a while: they use Instagram on a daily basis. There’s an incredible opportunity for connection here, and that’s why so many universities now have a presence on the platform.

If you’re starting a university account on Instagram, or are in need of some inspiration to liven up your school’s account, here’s how you can learn from these universities that are nailing it on this visual social media platform.

1. Liberty University

Liberty University’s focus is on people. Its Instagram account features large and small-scale photos of the people on campus. These photos aren’t just selfies with friends, though. For example, a photo of people cheering for a sports team or honoring those who have served have a more universal interest. They’re photos that anyone can relate to, and they inspire school spirit. Focusing on human shots as well as campus photos personalizes your campus and connects you to your students.

2. Colorado State University

We are lucky to have Dr. Temple Grandin at #ColoradoState A photo posted by Colorado State University (@coloradostateuniversity) on

At Colorado State, the Instagram account is united in its diversity. Colorado does an excellent job of portraying campus scenes, closeups of people, quotes, and advertising campaigns in its Instagram account. For example, a campus campaign with anti-hazing quotes has featured prominently in its Instagram account. Colorado’s account reminds universities that no image fits all and that it’s important to use diverse student engagement strategies within a social media account.

3. Arizona State University

Arizona State University’s Instagram account is full of school pride, specifically for its athletics. Its Instagram photos contain information and inspiration for those who are considering going to the game, including details about game day. The combination of text and images makes it easy for people to share the information online. Rallying school spirit is an important element in your university’s Instagram account.

4. Duke University

Duke University’s Instagram page is about the details of campus life, specifically those details that are not always visible to students. For example, one photo shows a backstage briefing before a panel discussion, while another shows the harvest at the campus farm. Keeping students in the loop as Duke does goes a long way towards building trust among prospective and current students. Don’t be afraid to pull back the curtain sometimes and showcase campus life in a way that isn’t usually seen in promotional content.

5. The University of Rochester

Photo Friday submission from Andrew Lee ’19: Rocky and Rochester students on The Great Wall of China.

A photo posted by University of Rochester (@urochester) on

The University of Rochester’s Instagram photos combine campaigns, quotes, and photos to put forward a distinctive personality for the campus as a whole. Silly captions and a campaign to show off their mascot in different parts of the country are two of the ways that this university shows off its personality on its social media account. Developing a distinctive voice can help your campus with its student engagement.

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6. West Virginia University

West Virginia University brings art into its Instagram account. The account is full of unique perspectives on campus, from close-ups to shots taken at an interesting time or a novel angle. Keeping an Instagram account visually exciting keeps your viewers guessing about what’s coming up next. High-quality, creative images go a long way towards getting your content noticed, liked, and shared on Instagram.

7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

What better way for a technology-focused university to connect with students than through stunning visuals taken by a drone? Universities are using drones to create intriguing campus photos that provide a unique perspective on campus.

8. The University of Nottingham

At the University of Nottingham, history and campus life come together. Their photos have captions that add a little bit of history to the photo with an engaging fact about that building or about the university. While the images are primary, captions can also draw in your visitors, helping them understand your university in a historical and community context.

9.Boston University

#TerrierTuesdays: Meet the COM/KHC sophomore behind one of BU’s most buzzed-about Instagram accounts: @bucketlistboston. Kate Weiser’s @BucketlistBoston is a visual representation of the items all Bostonians should cross off their proverbial “bucket list,” from strolling down the incomparable Marlborough St. to attending the Boston Ballet – all in a numbered format. While growing her following, the Mamaroneck, NY native has explored #Boston and adopted the city as her own. “Through @bucketlistboston, I’ve explored so many places in this city that I never would’ve gone before.” So far, Weiser’s favorite has been Brattle Book Shop but she’s looking forward to visiting the Boston Mapparium next! Coming from just outside of New York City, Weiser sees no contest between the two cities; “I love what a community Boston is,” she says – a fact that was reinforced on #MarathonMonday of this year. “I stood on Boylston St. at 6 pm cheering on the stragglers crossing the Finish Line and bonded with a city in a way I’ve never felt before,” she says. It was an initial setback that led to Weiser’s discovery of her current passion. Weiser’s love of Boston and photography led her to first apply to be a member of @igboston, a community of Instagrammers sharing beautiful images from across New England. She was initially turned down due to insufficient photos of the region on her personal account. Weiser became determined to share her photography and created an Instagram account to do solely that. Now, with over 3,000 followers, Weiser finds her account being mentioned by her classmates. “Being around people saying, ‘did you see that @bucketlistboston photo?’ is always the highlight of my day,” she says. For now, Weiser still aspires to become a member of @igboston but hopes to grow her account to be a “fun resource for Boston residents and visitors that inspire them to the plethora of things we have going on in this city.” Her advice for fellow Terriers? “Don’t get stuck in the ‘BU bubble!’ You don’t get the opportunity to be in a new place with so much time to spend there often – take advantage of it!”

A photo posted by Boston University (@bostonu) on

At Boston University, the focus is on the students. Every Tuesday, a different student is featured along with a caption telling you more about the student and what makes them a unique member of the BU community. Known as #TerrierTuesdays, these posts allow current students to get to know each other better, and also allow prospective students to see all the amazing things BU students are doing. Not to mention, these posts are almost guaranteed to be shared by the student featured and their immediate networks as well.

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10. Texas Tech University

At Texas Tech, the Instagram focus isn’t just on photos, but on videos. The university posts very short videos for seasonal events and other activities on campus. Its account highlights the impact of posting dynamic content that’s a little more labor-intensive to create.

11. Penn State University

Penn State’s Instagram account shows how a powerful campaign can attract interest in your account. Its love stories campaign highlights students who have met on campus, complete with the story of how they met and their lives together. This campaign creates community around Penn State’s brand.

12. Binghamton University

Binghamton University focuses on storytelling in its Instagram account. Specifically, it focuses on one or two people and tells the story of their lives, how they came to the university, and what they’re doing there. This account shows the power of human connection on a smaller scale.

13. University of Virginia

In the University of Virginia’s Instagram account, history is on display. The university uses its Instagram account to share new photos, but it also integrates old archival photos as well. Instagram can be a way to connect current and future students to your university’s past.

14. Georgetown University

While universities often highlight the beautiful, professionally-created photos of their campus and its people, it’s important to incorporate your campus community into the creation of your visual content. Georgetown University does this well, sharing many photos taken by its students and faculty.

15. New York University

Sunday snapshot. #instaNYU

A photo posted by New York University (@nyuniversity) on

We’ve previously mentioned New York University on our blog for their impressive Snapchat skills, but NYU also deserves a shout out for their expertly executed Instagram account. Not only does NYU tell students “the city is our classroom,” they also set out to prove it by posting beautiful photos from all over the Big Apple. Instagram provides the perfect opportunity to showcase what your school’s campus and the surrounding area has to offer beyond the usual academic buildings and athletic stadiums.

As you can see from the above examples, Instagram is a platform made for storytelling. Use it to your advantage by posting high-quality, relevant images that show an authentic perspective of what your university stands for. Whether you choose to focus on campus life, university news and achievements, or user-generated content, remember to share what makes your school unique. Chances are, current students and alumni are already talking about your school and what it means to them online. It’s your job to foster these moments of school pride, and to use them to inspire prospective students as they learn more about your school.

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