Social Media and Applying to College: What You Need to Know
If a college decides to look you up online, are you proud of what they will see? Although you may think what you post on social media stays between you and your followers, some colleges pay close attention to their applicants' online presences. Whether it is your retweets from Twitter or your Instagram stories, what you post online shares a lot about who you are and can sometimes influence whether your college application is accepted or rejected.
Do colleges look at social media?
Some colleges do look at applicants’ social media profiles when making admissions decisions. According to a 2019 Kaplan survey of 288 college admissions officers at top-ranked colleges, 36% admitted to checking an applicant's social media to learn more about them during the college admissions process. This is an increase from last year's 25% result. About 19% said they check social media profiles “often” when making admissions decisions, up from 11% last year.
Of the admissions officers who checked applicants’ social media profiles, 38% said what they found had a positive impact on their decision to admit students, while 32% said it had a negative impact. So, it’s important to be mindful of your social media activity!
How can I prepare my social media for applying to college?
Step One: Keep it professional
Your social media handles and usernames are the first thing someone sees on your profile, along with your profile picture. It’s ideal to use your own name for your social media usernames; it makes your presence more professional and easier to find. If your name isn’t available, use a close variation or add some relevant numbers behind it. It is also important that your profile picture is of high quality to further secure a good first impression!
It might be a good idea to update your email address if it’s not professional, or consider creating a separate email account strictly for all things professional and college.
It is important that you stay true to who you are in your social media profiles. Don’t hesitate to include unique and interesting things about yourself. Just remember to be careful about how much personal information you decide to share. The goal is to show that everything you have stated in your college application is positively supported or enhanced by your online presence.
Step Two: Take control of what people can see
Make sure that your posts do not include anything that is a negative reflection of who you are, especially if you’ve had social media accounts since you were young. Pictures featuring underage drinking or illegal substances or activities are, obviously, not a good idea. Neither are posts containing negative, distasteful, or offensive language.
Tagged photos are often forgotten about when cleaning up and rebranding social media, and it’s possible that you aren’t aware that a specific photo has been posted at all! Visit all your social media platforms and make sure you’re not tagged in anything that could potentially reflect poorly on you.
Once you’ve removed any negative posts that might be out there, create new posts that highlight the positive. If you participate in any outside activities or volunteering, now is the time to share them. Don’t be afraid to document your extracurriculars or post about giving back to your community. Just be careful to not overdo it. A few posts here and there is the perfect amount.
Step Three: Manage who you follow
Review the people you are following and consider whether you want your potential college to associate you with those accounts. If the answer is no, it’s a good idea to unfollow.
On the other hand, following certain accounts can have a positive impact when it comes to college admissions. Following your potential colleges and their admissions accounts demonstrates your interest in those colleges. Following accounts related to your interests, values, and hobbies not only tells a college more about you, but validates things you might have included in your application.
How can I use social media accounts to my advantage when looking to apply for college?
You can use your newly polished social media profiles to your advantage during college admissions. Take advantage of FaceBook Pages and LinkedIn Profiles, which can be a great way to help you stand out and express your interest in continuing your education at certain colleges.
Colleges are using multiple social media platforms to recruit students. Follow the colleges you’re interested in, interact with them online, and take part in communities! Be sure to display the positives by posting about high school academic awards, community service, and other activities might help you catch a college's eye as a prospective student.
Make social media part of your college research
You can also use social media platforms to research and find out interesting facts and details about your potential colleges. Both students and parents can use social networks to get an inside look at a college’s campus life and how the school is run. You never know, maybe what you find on social media will make you rethink your decisions!
Your social media footprint is just one thing colleges may consider after looking at more significant factors like grades, test scores, and letters of recommendation. Still, making sure your social media pages are in order is an important part of your college prep. If you stay true to yourself and remain professional, your social media footprint will only enhance your application and highlight the qualities that make you a top candidate.