Reading Google Reviews of Your University

Hyperbole, authenticity, and the bizarre.

September 28, 2017

People write online reviews for a lot of things these days. Most reviews are honest and accurate representations of an experience with a company, service, organization, university, etc. While others are exaggerated tales that are little more than an extension of the comment troll in the guise of an online review.

Recently, a London-based company that shall not be named asked me to remove my review of their service. They didn't like my review even though it was a truthful retelling of my first (and last) experience with the company. Through myriad emails, the company blatantly asked me to remove my review in order to receive assistance / adequate customer service (UK customer service is an entirely separate post...for future reference). I didn't remove my review and I was reminded that Google reviews are often highly influential for guiding perceptions about a company or organization.

A quick look at any Google search for a university results in a variety of reviews. Most of the reviews that I read were positive. However, some were intensely negative and others were just odd.

For example, Harvard University has more than 3,100 Google reviews. The three reviews that appear when I'm viewing Harvard's results page are a mix of comments on the sophistication of the university, the experience of breakfast at Annenberg Hall, and a troll'ish review that's poorly written.

Across the Charles River at Boston University, there are fewer Google reviews (255), but the top 3 reviews speak of a great experience at an amazing university. The fourth review from 3 weeks ago has a less than stellar comment. And, whilst review number 5 begins with a rebuke towards reviewers who post without actually attending BU, they then leave a 1 star review with a damaging set of comments.

I guess that's the issue with Google reviews. Anyone can leave a comment about anything that may or may not be legitimate. While universities may partner up with reputable review sites, Google has a free-for-all on their hands. Some reviews are accurate and others are flights of fancy.

Fortunately, one benefit of Google reviews is the opportunity to take hyperbolic comments and distill them down to themes and issues that should be addressed. A review that's less than positive can still hold valuable/actionable insights about your university.

I found a Google review (out of 207 total reviews) for Oregon State University that speaks of having difficulties with transferring from a community college. These types of reviews matter quite a bit in terms of perception, experience, and value for money.

Are you reading your university's Google reviews? Do Google reviews influence policy/processes at your university? 


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