College Ready: What You Need to Know – Social Media & College Admission
Admissions officers looking beyond test scores, GPA and extracurriculars when they turn to the Web and social media to get a more detailed portrait of you. Keep in mind that social media profiles and Web search results may reveal evidence that either ensures or sabotages your acceptance into college. Imagine spending years preparing for SATs or ACTs, getting high grades in honors classes, spending the bulk of your free time participating in extracurriculars, and pouring yourself into researching and applying for scholarships and colleges only to be undermined by your own online actions. Conversely, you can use the same powerful technology to boost your reputation and showcase all that you have done. Let the best side of you shine online.
According to an annual survey by Kaplan Test Prep:
“Of the 35% of admissions officers who say they check social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to learn more about applicants, 47% say that what they found has had a positive impact on prospective students — up from 37% last year. On the flip side, 42% say that what they found had a negative impact, up from 37% last year.” (Kaplan, 2017)
The good news is that almost half of the college admissions officers say that they are finding positive social media content about college applicants that actually helps their chances. What type of content might that be, you ask? In a nutshell, any evidence of the information that you would put into your application that supports the image that you have portrayed in writing with concrete evidence boosts your chances, namely, leadership roles and community service (Kaplan, 2016). On the other hand, admissions officers have reported finding content in applicant’s social media presence that closes the door to acceptance. Examples of negative discoveries include criminal offenses, photos of drug or alcohol use, racial prejudice or inappropriate behavior (Kaplan, 2016).
Here are the top four reasons that colleges to search for applicants on social media:
- Candidate’s talents: Applicants may mention that they are musicians, writers, artists, and poets. Social media profiles may serve as a gallery or portfolio.
- Verification of awards: Applicants may mention that they have received awards, and the Web may prove or disprove otherwise; some officers have stated that they found awards that candidates have received in addition to what was in their application. (Bonus!)
- Criminal records or questionable behavior: A Web search or an online persona shows affiliation with crime, disregard for laws, and inappropriate behaviors that cause the college to retract their decision.
- Anonymous tips: A college board may receive leading information regarding inappropriate behavior of a candidate that may be evidenced in a social media profile. (Note: Profanity, discrimination, online rants, and careless comments do not work in students’ favor.)
Source: Kaplan Test Prep, 2016
Social networking profiles are a means of self-expression and communication; an everyday aspect of the average teen life. Although these sites and apps are connected to the world, most teens consider their friends as their primary audience. With this social context in mind, the ways that teens communicate and present themselves are usually based on how they interact with their peers. What some teens may not consider is that online social interactions leave digital footprints behind; traces of information that form a vivid picture of an individual’s personality, interests, activities, and social connections. These footprints form a persona, and the persona leads to a reputation.
Remember that colleges are looking for a “holistic” portrait of you, so conduct a digital checkup. Google yourself. Clean up all of our social media profiles and make sure that you document all of your noteworthy qualities and achievements. Yariv Alpher, executive director of research, Kaplan Test Prep says that
“What you post online can and may be used in your favor or against you, so it’s important to think about what you share. When in doubt, the best strategy may be to keep it to yourself” (2017).
Is your social media presence College Ready?
Below are some ideas that you can use to build a positive social media presence:
- Photos or mentions of you receiving awards, honors or other achievements
- Photos of you engaging in extracurriculars like sports, band, art, debate, etc.
- Photos or videos that showcase your athletic abilities
- Written work that demonstrates your intellectual ability such as blog posts and student journalism publications
- A creative portfolio or gallery of photographs, videos, artwork, graphic designs
- Photos of you in professional or formal attire (prom photo or winter formal)
- Photos or videos of you engaged in community service or charity work
- Photos with team mates showing collaboration and camaraderie
- Evidence of your work as a mentor to younger children (with parent permission)
- Photos that evidence leadership such as your participation in clubs or as a student body representative
- Participation and development of iDrive social media campaigns
Taking into account all of the “hard factors” and “soft factors,” preparing for college is a tremendous endeavor. After studying and preparing for the college admission exam, loading up your schedule with advanced courses, writing amazing essays rounding out your identity as a desirable candidate with athletics, the arts, club participation and community service, the college board or scholarship committee may turn to social media to get a full picture of the person that they are reading about in the college application.
Schaffer, Russell. February 10, 2017. “Kaplan Test Prep Survey: College Admissions Officers Say Social Media Increasingly Affects Applicants’ Chances.” Kaplan Test Prep. NY. Retrieved from: https://goo.gl/uu9NdH
Schaffer, Russell. January 13, 2016. “Kaplan Test Prep Survey: Percentage of College Admissions Officers Who Check Out Applicants’ Social Media Profiles Hits New High; Triggers Include Special Talents, Competitive Sabotage” Kaplan Test Prep. NY. Retrieved from: https://goo.gl/CL57WD