While the school's students were away for summer break, Otterbein University stumbled onto one of its best moments of national recognition, thanks to its students' social-media prowess, going toe to toe with significantly larger schools across the country.

In July, Forbes magazine ran a contest dubbed "#MyTopCollege."

The publication challenged students on Twitter to tweet about their school with the hashtag, soliciting tweets about why students love their school.

Will Elkins, Otterbein's social-media manager, happened across the contest in its early days and sent an email to a variety of the school's "most active groups," hoping for a little bit of extra attention.

"Forbes did not contact us directly or anything; I found it just because we follow Forbes for their education (coverage)," Elkins said. "I saw something about their annual social media contest ... and knowing how engaged our students and alumni and staff are, I thought we really had a chance to win this whole thing."

It wasn't long before Elkins' hopes started taking shape.

Within the first few days of the contest, Otterbein was contending for the top spot in the country, competing with big schools with bigger reputations.

"It took basically no prodding from me whatsoever," Elkins said with a laugh. "I just provided weekly updates ... in an email chain that was probably 30 or 40 people. It just took off. Once people saw what was happening, we put out the weekly rankings ... and people just kept adding more."

Tweets praised Otterbein's atmosphere, its travel opportunities and its professors.

Ultimately, Otterbein finished third. The 2,900-student school in Westerville trailed only California State University, Fullerton, and Fresno State University, which have enrollments of about 40,000 and 24,000, respectively.

Otterbein's overall finish meant it finished first in the "medium school" category, which covered schools with enrollments of 2,000 to 14,999.

For Elkins, the social media blitz provided a great chance to see Otterbein's name beyond central Ohio.

"Forbes is still a hugely respected name in journalism, especially with their financial information and the educational side," he said. "This was a name I grew up with ... so being in the headlines of the articles they wrote, that's just some great, great public relations we got.

"I think it's going to put us in front of a lot of new eyes nationally."

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