Everything from your Facebook account to your Google search results is fair game when you apply for work.
But what about applying for admission to a university?
About 40 percent of admissions departments check social media to learn about candidates, according to a survey of 365 colleges performed by Kaplan Test Prep in 2016.
On the bright side, half of those departments said their search had a positive impact on the students’ applications.
5 ways to use your social media profiles to your advantage
When applying to colleges or graduate schools, your first reaction might be to check your privacy settings on popular platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter.
Although that’s a safe choice, your social media profiles can also be vehicles to tell a positive story to admissions officers. You control what they see, after all, even if you don’t control their ultimate decision.
1. Match your profiles to your applications
Your college application, with well-written essays and killer letters of recommendation, should present you in the best possible light. There’s no reason why your tweets shouldn’t too. And there are ways to do that beyond posting with perfect spelling and grammar.
If you wrote a college essay about helping your younger siblings through tough times, for example, an admissions officer might look for pictures of them on your Facebook profile. Similarly, your online profiles can be good places to post photos of your successes, such as receiving academic awards or playing for your high school’s sports teams.
It might be wise to look back at your past photos on these platforms too. You might find one or two that would make an admissions officer question whether you’re the same applicant who nailed their paper application.
2. Show your interest in schools
Liking and following the social media profiles of your preferred schools is a smart move. Take it a step further by finding appropriate ways to engage with the schools on these platforms. You might comment on a school’s post, or tag the school during your college visit.
Be wary of going all out for your “reach” school on social media if you’re still being considered by others. The admissions officer of your “target” school could be put off. You also wouldn’t want to poke fun at your “safety” school. You’d be better served needling their rival.
You can also demonstrate your interest in a major. If you’re being considered by a university’s college of business, for example, they might like to know that you follow top financial experts online.
3. Post about your passions
Your college essay is one way to tell schools about your deepest desires and strongest passions. But your social media profiles can also be a vehicle to show off your interest in, well, whatever it is that interests you. You might be one of the following, to name a few examples:
- An aspiring science major who tweets the latest news from NASA
- A teen journalist linking to their latest blog post
- A musician posting a video of their weekend concert
Relishing in your favorite pastime online gives schools another window into who you are beyond your grades.
Although it’s great to post and comment about your interests, be wary of offending someone else’s views in the process. Although college campuses are ripe for debate, think twice about sharing strong opinions with a public audience.
One test to avoid overstepping: Would you share this opinion during an in-person sit-down with the admissions officer? If not, you have your answer.
This goes for posts or comments you might make within seemingly private groups on social media platforms. In 2017, Harvard University rescinded admissions offers to at least 10 incoming freshmen when they were found to be sharing hateful memes via a private Facebook group chat.
To be on the safe side, consider avoiding posts that are meant to be funny but could be misunderstood. You could be punished by perception, not reality.
4. Share the highlights of your social life
There’s nothing wrong with most high school party pictures. They might actually help you. For one, admissions officers want to enroll well-rounded students who have social lives.
For another, the photos might show that you’re comfortable interacting with all different kinds of students. Admissions departments want their campuses to be full of different ideas from students of different backgrounds.
Positive impressions can be gleaned from your Instagram account and Facebook photo galleries. So don’t worry about having to hide them from school admissions departments.
On the flip side, be diligent about how you might appear in friend’s photos, especially on platforms that allow users to tag people without their consent. You wouldn’t want an admissions officer to find a particular image and get the wrong impression.
5. Keep posting after you apply
If you apply for college in January of your senior year of high school, it might be one to two months before an admissions officer has made a final decision. This would be the period, between January and March, where your social media profiles might be reviewed.
If it strengthens your case for admission, use this time to be your own advocate online. Connect the dots for an admissions officer who might be on the fence. If you focused your application essay on a senior project, for example, post updates about its progress.
You might also use your profiles to document your search for college scholarships. Posting about applications and awards could show colleges that you’re serious about finding your way to campus.
If you haven’t yet applied to schools, consider including links to, say, a LinkedIn profile in your college application. This way, you can also point admissions departments toward the social media platform of your choice.
Be aware that your school might also be among the 200-plus to use a social media-like mobile app called ZeeMee that connects schools with their potential students. It could be one more way to share your story.
Use social media to your benefit
When you read that prospective Harvard students were told they were no longer welcome in the class of 2021, your gut reaction might be to shut down all your social media accounts. Less dramatically, you might opt for restricting public access to the accounts.
Depending on your situation, those might be the wisest steps to take. But consider that you’re in control of your narrative.
If you close your accounts, you lose one way to make your case to get into a particular college.
So, instead, turn your social media feeds into a positive thing for admissions officers to look at. Afterall, it might just push you over the top and help you get accepted.
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