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How Social Media Can Sabotage a Great College Application

July 06, 2017, 06:55 PM

In college admissions, sometimes it is the little things that count, like your social media presence. Last month, Harvard revoked admission offers to at least 10 students over offensive online comments and other schools have done similarly. In a recent survey, 67 percent of schools admitted Googling a prospective student, and 86 percent admitted researching students’ social media sites.

How Students Can Use Social Media Responsibly

Those late night Facebook comments or the Instagram photo you took at the beach may have seemed cute or funny at the time but colleges might disagree.  Here are some ways to make sure that your social media presence will not hurt (and can only help) your college application.

Tip #1: Google Yourself. If colleges admit doing this, then you should too. Don’t just read the first page of results. Dig in until you can no longer find any results relevant to your profile. What if you don’t come up at all? That’s okay. Most colleges are mainly looking for posts that reflect poorly on the applicant.

Tip#2: Be Conservative. One simple rule to always ask yourself: “Would I want a college admission officer to see this post?” If you are not careful, one could. So err on the side of caution. Even if what you say is not offensive or silly, make sure that it is still consistent with how you wish to present yourself to colleges.

Tip#3: Untag and Unfollow, If Necessary. Make sure to untag yourself from any questionable photos or comment streams (see the rule above) and unfriend or unfollow anyone who posts content that you would not want a college admission officer to see. Although it can be awkward to do this, if you are tagged in an inappropriate post it could create problems down the road for your application. If friends complain, encourage them to clean up their social media profiles as well.

Tip#4: Highlight the Positive: Social media can be a great space to “brag” about all the awesome things you do. Did you just finish a 5K run for a good cause? Post a photo of yourself at the finish line. If you are passionate about protecting marine animals from ocean pollution, highlight it in your social media presence. Do you love to draw or paint? Show some samples of your work. Just make sure that what you post is consistent with the interests and activities that you highlight on the application.

Tip #5: Follow Your Favorite Colleges. Don’t forget to follow the schools you are applying to on social media, like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. It is also great way to show interest and stay informed about the college for in-person interviews or short essays on the application that ask you why you are applying specifically to that school.

Social media is here to stay, so learn how to use the technology wisely. Make the effort to build an online reputation that college will appreciate and respect.

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