If you’re a high school senior applying to college this fall, chances are you’re very active on social media. Forbes reports that Gen Z students are on their smartphones for approximately 10 hours a day; it’s not just entertainment — it’s a lifestyle.
But what role does social media play in college admissions? Below, college admissions experts share their perspectives on how social media could affect a student’s acceptance to college.
Victoria Hill, former admissions counselor, Wake Forest University
In your experience, do college admissions counselors tend to consult prospective students’ social media?
Victoria Hill: We definitely vetted applicants’ social media, often because we were impressed by them and wanted to make sure they carried themselves well. But we also checked because we were informed that there was cause for concern, often as part of a broader disciplinary issue at their high school.
CS: How can social media hurt — or help — a student during the admissions process?
VH: If it includes a lot of sexual humor or glorifies underage alcohol use, it can give us pause about how this student is going to behave on a college campus. We could — and did — rescind offers based on social media postings that showed staggeringly bad judgment.
That said, I’ve seen some students use their social media to their advantage. I once interviewed a young woman who told me she had an Instagram account for her pet pig, and how it helped her connect with other people who had unusual pets. I still follow that account; it is so charming!
Jocelyn De Jong, senior associate director of admissions for recruitment and communications, University of Washington
CS: In your experience, do college admissions counselors tend to consult prospective students’ social media?
JDJ: At the University of Washington, we do not review applicants’ social media accounts. Ultimately, as admissions officers, we are most concerned about academic preparation and performance; social media is not a factor in admissibility.
CS: If not prior to acceptance, is there any role social media plays in the admissions
JDJ: We do invite admitted students to a private, admitted-student only online community where they can ask questions, engage with other admitted students, find roommates and more. If a moderator notices a comment or post that needs addressing, they will do so individually with the student.
Anna Ivey, founder of admissions consulting firm, Ivey Consulting, and former
dean of Admissions at University of Chicago Law School
CS: Should prospective students prepare for college admissions counselors to check their social media?
AI: It’s safest to assume that they might look at your social media. Even if a social media account is private, there are parts that they’ll still be able to see; for example, all your profile photos and cover photos on Facebook are public. Admissions officers are evaluating your judgment, among other things. This is a good place to demonstrate it.
CS: How can social media help students during the admissions process?
AI: College applications aren’t optimized to showcase anything in a visual way, and of course that’s exactly what social media allows you to do. But applications don’t — yet — ask for your social media handles.
There are new ways to curate your visual presence for college admissions purposes. For example, you can store images and other kinds of posts on your profile at ZeeMee, an app for college admissions, and then include the link in your applications.
CS: How would you recommend high school students use social media as they begin to apply to colleges?
AI: Do follow schools’ various social media feeds. How do the schools present themselves? Are there feeds by current students? Are student feeds vetted by the admissions office, or are they uncensored? MIT, for example, has some great student bloggers, and they are completely uncensored and so interesting. Understand, too, that colleges pay lots of money to data analysts to track your movements online, whether that’s visiting a college website or liking their Facebook page, for example.
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