By Dr. Shanell
It is often said that the internet and social media can impact your college admissions, scholarship offerings or even various employment opportunities. Social media has certainly gotten prospective high school university applicants in trouble in the past - and some even after they had already been admitted to their dream school. Recent case in point, you may have heard this past summer (2019) about the recent Harvard student that was initially rejected at customs and denied entry into the US. Not because of his account, but over a friend’s social media posts. Or, in July 2017 the group of 10 high school graduates who had their acceptance offers to Harvard University revoked due to inappropriate social media posts and questionable content (e.g., offensive memes) discovered in a Facebook Group. These are just a few examples, but Harvard isn’t the only institution searching social media outlets. According to a 2017 survey administered by the “American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers,” 11% of respondents said they "denied admission based on social media content" and another 7% rescinded offers for the same reason. Subsequently, a 2018 Kaplan Test Prep survey found that about 68% of college admissions officers believed it was “fair game” to review applicants' social media profiles to make admission decisions. The examples along with the survey results show this is not just hearsay, universities are checking and what you posts does matter.
Below are a few additional articles that support this claim:
- Do colleges look at prospective students’ social media?
- Colleges shift to using “big data” – including social media in admissions decisions
- How Social Media can Ruin Your Application
- College Admissions: Social Media Tune Up
- Colleges are spying on applicants by quietly tracking them across the internet
Why are colleges & universities searching? Colleges want more than just a student with stellar grades, impressive test scores, and president of the chess club – they want someone of high character and morals. They are looking to learn more about you, so give them something to see.
Here are some tips for students to ensure that their digital footprint will enhance their university application and NOT
See what’s out there...Google yourself. Universities operate under the assumption that past behavior predicts future behavior. Enter your name in a search engine to discover what admission officers will see. Then ask yourself, “is this the reputation I want to portray to prospective schools?”
Should I delete all of my social media accounts? Deleting your accounts won’t be necessary. Though, it is a good idea to make it private. On most social media, a private account means your name won’t come up in the search results, and it limits your digital footprint. This is 2019 and universities expect prospective students to interact on social media. However, it won’t hurt to secure your privacy settings on all of your accounts to ensure you’re not overexposing yourself. Some social media platforms allow other people to tag you even if you’re not friends (e.g., facial recognition feature on Facebook). You wouldn’t want someone else’s post to negatively impact a college’s perception of you.
Scan for inappropriate content. Take a day or a few hours and conduct a thorough scan of your social media accounts. If anything is questionable or would cause a “red flag” if seen by universities, then make an effort to correct the information (i.e., delete, edit, etc). If you wouldn’t feel comfortable showing it to an adult or your elders, then it’s probably not content you wish to be viewed publicly.
Use social media to your advantage...showcase yourself to universities. Don’t just wipe your online footprint clean, this would also be a red flag! University admission officers want to enroll students that are community leaders, good contributors to society, and engaged individuals. Use your social media to highlight your strengths, your goals, and your accomplishments. The best applicants have strong digital footprints, showing their actions and engagements in and outside the classroom. Remember universities want to know that you’ll also contribute to their campus life and community. If you started a business, founded a club, earned a distinguished award, published an article, showcased your art, or anything worth noting, this is the content that should be reflected online.
The purpose of this article isn’t to deter you from using social media, but to encourage you to be smart and THINK before you post.