In an era of smart phones and technology always at our fingertips, social media is a deeply ingrained part of the daily lives of most teens (and often their parents!). As students prepare to apply to college, many families ask me about the role of social media in college admissions, specifically the college research, application, and selection process. Here are a few things to consider:
Key Tool in College Research
Most colleges and universities use social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat for marketing purposes and to engage with prospective and admitted students. Most schools have private social media groups for admitted students to get to know each other and to learn more about the school while deciding where to attend college. Many colleges have current students run social media pages, blogs, and websites to provide an authentic glimpse of life at that college that can be a fantastic tool for researching colleges. If you are not able to visit campus, social media can be an excellent substitute for seeing pictures of campus, events, students, and more.
I occasionally speak with families who do not use social media and ask if they need to create social media accounts for the college admission process. Absolutely not! Although social media can be an excellent research tool, opting out of social media will in no way impact your likelihood of admission. It is possible, however, that a student would miss out on fun opportunities to interact with current and admitted students as many colleges use social media pages to help admitted students develop a sense of community before they even begin college.
Although I never searched a student’s social media presence as part of the admission application review process, I did sometimes stumble upon student social media content when searching for their published writing, music, art, etc. Before you start interacting with colleges, now is the time to make sure your social media settings are maximized for privacy. For example, if you use Facebook, make sure that only your friends can see your photos and posts. Take a moment to survey the settings of all of your social media accounts, make changes as needed, then log out of all accounts and do an internet search of your name to see what comes up. Safeguarding your privacy will be a good habit as you emerge as a young professional (many hiring processes do conduct online searches of job candidates), so this is a good habit to start now.
Is everything in your public social media presence appropriate and respectful? Think of it from this angle: Are all of your profile photos and public content things that you would want a Vice President of admissions or future employers to see? I am not saying that you need to be inauthentic, but the college application process is a pivotal step in the transition from adolescence to young-adulthood and an excellent opportunity for you to decide how to present yourself publicly.
Although social media platforms are more casual than in-person, phone, and email communication, it is important to remember that college leaders have access to college social media pages and that, in rare cases, students have had offers of admission rescinded for inappropriate behavior in these social media spaces.
Regardless of how you choose to use (or not use) social media, I encourage you to take a moment to pause and decide how you want to publicly present yourself online. Seize this opportunity to be empowered and in charge as you dive into the college research and application process.