Social Media and Applying to College
How to be Smart!
Pam Ohriner – Phone: (310) 733-8433
The widespread use of social media among both high school and college students has provided students a myriad of opportunities. These websites include Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Instagram, with new apps constantly being added to the list. The constantly advancing use of social media has presented the chance for college applicants to research colleges online, promote themselves digitally, connect with current students and staff at colleges of interest, and show demonstrated interest in universities by “liking” them on Facebook, following them, and commenting on their posts. Following schools of interest helps keep the applicant up to date on news and could present potentially relevant subject matter for use in supplemental essays or college interviews. If utilized carefully, social media profiles can be a powerful tool to enhance and support the college application. The user can selectively post content, including photos, videos, and blogs that highlight their strengths; thereby making the most of a student’s online profile.
The downside of social media is that if not carefully monitored and used responsibly, it can actually damage an applicant’s chance of admission at their dream school. Social media is an important part of the college admissions process, not only as a way for students to learn about colleges and as a valuable recruitment tool, but it also provides an avenue for colleges to learn about the applicant. The truth is that students have no idea who will be looking at their profile and when it will be viewed. It is important to remember that the student will be judged, for better or worse, based on what is viewed online. Staff and faculty within a college’s athletic department, individual programs, and financial aid may also view online profiles of students as part of their decision making process. A student is easily searchable in the cyber world. Traditional means of measurement including GPA, standardized test scores, volunteer and extracurricular activities, college admission essays, and letters of recommendation still remain the primary factors on which admission is decided. However, due to increased competition, admission officers are increasingly looking to social media as another valuable factor in the admissions process. A student’s online profile should closely mirror their application file. Aside from admission officers checking out a student’s online persona, it is important to remember that potential internships as well as prospective employers may use online data to determine a student’s suitability for those opportunities as well.
Faced with fear, some students have taken to using a pseudonym on Facebook. However, Helping Hand College Guidance believes this is entirely unnecessary if students are knowledgeable about protecting themselves and in using online opportunities as a chance to promote themselves. Pam Ohriner, private college counselor at Helping Hand College Guidance in Pacific Palisades, recommends college applicants take the following steps to make sure their projected image is one that can help and not negatively impact their college chances:
- It’s easier to be careful of what you post and who you relate to online, than to have to delete material later. Put extra thought into what you post, as impressions may be lasting. Do not write negative or inappropriate comments. Anything that you would not want a teacher or parent to see should not be written.
- As experienced college advisors, Helping Hand College Guidance recommends reviewing all tweets, Facebook comments, pictures, and tags for questionable content. Remove tags from any content or photos that you are not comfortable showing. Check especially for bad language and distasteful posts. Be careful about posting party pictures, as colleges are looking for students that are serious about academics.
- Check your privacy settings for your Facebook wall, photos, and “ likes”. If you have notdone so already, increase your privacy settings so only friends can view your content. As settings frequently change, remember to check back every so often and make sure that your settings are still the same. If possible, regulate your privacy settings individually for friends, controlling who can tag you in photos, and search for you. Again, anything controversial should be removed. When in doubt, it is better to be safe than sorry! Go through your “likes” to make sure they are appropriate and “unlike” those that you are not sure about.
- If you have a Twitter account, is your name or “handle” embarrassing? Consider making a change if it is awkward. Examine the “handles” of people you follow. You may want to delete those that have names that make you uncomfortable.
Los Angeles college counselor Pam Ohriner believes that it is of vital importance to protect and monitor a student’s online persona as it may well be a factor in an admission decision. We believe, at Helping Hand College Guidance, that it is not necessary to delete social media accounts if one is responsible in their usage and monitoring of them. Although not all colleges or universities will search for applicants online, we never know if and when they will. Therefore, it is better to be prepared and confident in our projected image, unworried about putting our admission chances in jeopardy. With a clean online profile used to properly promote ourselves, social media will rather be an advantage than a detriment in the college admission process. For further questions or to find out how Helping Hand College Guidance can maximize your chances of admission, please contact us today! We offer a free half hour phone consultation. Comprehensive packages, 5 and 10 hour packages, as well as individual hours are options offered to clients.