This week, Facebook announced that it had topped 1 billion users; with that many people online, it’s no wonder that 87 percent of colleges now use Facebook to recruit new students. In fact, a recent survey by Kaplan Test Prep discovered that over the last two years, colleges have increased their presence on several social media platforms, including Twitter, YouTube, Google and Pinterest. But, colleges aren’t simply using the various social media networks to recruit potential students; they are also using these platforms to eliminate students during the college admissions process. During the past year, 35 percent of college admissions officers admitted that they found something online that negatively affected a student’s chance of admission. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Martha Blevins Allman, dean of admissions at Wake Forest University, stated that although Wake never uses social media ‘as a single indicator,’ if it has any suspicions, it will take a look at a student’s profile page or other social media accounts. For students just starting the college planning process, this should be a wake-up call. The good news is that there are several things students can do to help minimize any negative impact social media may have on their college admissions opportunities.
It may seem narcissistic, but Google is a great way for students to find out what’s online for others to find. Students may be surprised to see pictures or read posts about themselves that may be less than flattering. Taking the time to go through the links and remove any negative content may help students avoid future embarrassment during the admissions process, or help them to prepare for questions concerning incidents detailed online.
Pictures sometimes speak louder than words, so students should take great care to clean up any questionable shots that may be included on their Facebook page or other social platforms. Photos that include drinking, drugs or other illegal activities will definitely cause more harm than good. Students should also consider removing any pictures in revealing outfits or provocative poses. Instead, students should include photos of awards they have received, time spent volunteering or images of themselves engaged in school activities.
In the Kaplan survey, college admissions officers cited many negative online activities that contributed to them rejecting applicants, including vulgarity in blogs and bullying online. Although students may just be ‘playing around’ with their friends, quoting music lyrics, or simply sharing a funny video, these activities may be perceived by others as negative, depending on the nature of the content involved. Students should refrain from including profanity or sexually explicit content on any of their social media channels. In its place, students should consider linking to causes they are passionate about or including inspirational quotes and other positive messaging on their Facebook wall.
Students should also consider following their prospective colleges on several social media platforms. Interacting with the college’s admissions staff and current students online can assist students in determining whether a school may be right for them, as well as showing colleges that they have a serious interest in gaining admission. Creating a positive online image is becoming an important aspect of the college admissions process. Students should be aware that once something is posted online, it is very difficult to make it disappear. Taking the time to review current content will help students put forth a positive image and avoid potential embarrassment. Students should be smart and think twice before they tweet or post online.