Photo Booths Help Make Penn Move-In Fun and Shareable

Heading to college for the first time can be an anxious time. Beyond the hard work of packing and moving to campus, nerves can be frazzled. For some, it is the first time they’ll be living away from home. There are the emotional goodbyes, roommates meeting for the first time and a whole new campus to navigate.

This year at the University of Pennsylvania, in an effort to help curb the anxiety and provide some fun, Residential Services set up photo booths at College House entrances as part of Move-In on August 22 and 23.

“We know leaving home and entering a new environment can be an intimidating experience for many students and families,” says John Eckman, director of residential services at Penn who oversees Move-In. “Our goal was to create a welcoming and celebratory atmosphere and a place where students could take serious, fun or silly snapshots of themselves or with their families and new housemates.”

But these were not the nostalgic photo booths of your father or your grandmother’s day -- the photo booth has been around since the 1920s. Now the arcade-style photo booths are open, with a branded backdrop and a camera and printer. The set up also allowed students and families to post content directly to Instagram, Flickr and Twitter.

“Social media is a format that is second nature for our students,” Eckman says. “We thought that incorporating photo booths and live posts into Move-In was a natural fit. It gives students a familiar way to get to know roommates, share their excitement and document what is an important turning point in their lives.”

Managing the move-in of 2,400 Penn freshmen is a big logistical job and keeping students and families calm is important, but using social media as part of the process was also part of a deliberate social media campaign. The photos were streamed on Instagram and Twitter. First-year students and families were also encouraged to use the hashtag #LivePenn and #PennMoveIn to provide an immediate way for the students to feel a part of their new campus community and communicate the benchmark with friends and family off-campus. Five hundred volunteers and staff from Development, Admissions and Business Services assisted students and parents. And all were encouraged to participate in the social media campaign posting content with the institutional hashtags.

The campaign created an institutional experience and a permanent digital documentation of the moment that can continue to be shared. One can almost imagine that some of these Move-In images might one day become iconic documents, the first snapshots of famous college roommates – like Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones or Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson. But for now these images paint a rich picture of 2013 Move-In, a turning point for students and families and a record of welcoming the Class of 2017 to the Penn community. 

Photos can be viewed at

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