Imagine working hard through high school, putting in late nights, earning high grades and finally gaining acceptance to one of the most prestigious universities in the world–only to have your acceptance rescinded when admissions officers viewed your social media pages. This is what happened to one Harvard University hopeful after school officials found some questionable content on her public Facebook page. If you think the inflammatory post you made two years ago won’t hurt your chances of getting into the college of your dreams, think again. Colleges look at students’ social media and often make admissions decisions based on what they find.
Grades are Not Enough
The college admission landscape is tough, and with so many high-achieving students vying for just a few slots at the most popular colleges, admissions officers have a hard job. When faced with two candidates with identical credentials, officers look to a student’s character as the ultimate tie breaker. Social media has grown ever popular in recent years, and billions of people around the world use these platforms to share the events of their lives with friends and family, engage in discussions and espouse their opinions of a variety of topics. It is that free exchange of ideas in a public forum that often gets students into hot water when it comes to applying for college.Read More »
The Internet Never Forgets
Once something is on the Web, it’s nearly impossible to erase it. You can delete a tweet or controversial post, but not before it’s been shared, screenshot and printed for others to see. These posts can come back to haunt students later, making it harder for them as they navigate through their college and post-graduate careers. Experts recommend keeping social media accounts private, or tightly controlling what the public can view on your page. If you are planning to engage in controversial topics online, do so using an anonymous account.
What to Avoid on Social Media
According to a 2018 survey by Kaplan, more than 25 percent of college admissions officers review their applicants social media profiles when making a decision. This is even more pronounced at more competitive schools where only a handful of students are admitted each year. Instead of simply reviewing the data, these officers do a deep dive into the student’s personality, background and life, and will often search for them on popular social media sites.
-Anything that goes against the community
If you are applying to a university that is centered around a certain religion, avoid posting content that would be considered inappropriate to the religion’s principles. Avoid advocating for behaviors that are against the moral code of the religion or would bring disgrace if discovered. If your intended university is located in a community that has strong views one way or the other, it’s best not to ruffle feathers by posting contrary opinions on social media.
-Anything that is considered hate speech or incendiary
Posting how much you dislike people of a certain gender, race or sexual orientation won’t win you any friends, so keep these opinions off the Internet if you are considering college admission. Ivy league Cornell University rescinded the admissions offer for one star high school athlete when a Snapchat video he posted to the Web went viral. The 2020 video featured him using racial slurs and mocking the death of an African American man who died in police custody.
A University of Florida hopeful lost her place after she was admitted when she posted “I really try so hard not to be a racist person, but I most definitely am, there’s no denying it.” The University decided that admitting her would not be in line with the school’s mission of providing a diverse and welcoming space for all students.
-Anything that portrays you as a liability
Perhaps you like to party a bit on weekends and there are posts of you engaging in underage drinking with your friends. Or, you’re a bit of a daredevil and love to make Tik Tok videos of you leaping from buildings and getting hurt. Maybe you make a post bragging about how you’ve mastered the art of stealing from Wal-Mart. This type of behavior makes you stand out—in a bad way. You’re essentially telling the admissions officers that if they admit you, you may bring unwanted attention or even legal problems to the university community.
How Social Media Can Help Prospective Students
Judi Robinovitz, a certified education planner, advises that social media is a tool that can boost your chances of college admission if used wisely. If you visit the college for a tour, post photos of yourself enjoying the campus and saying positive things about your experience. Use social media to share the positive details about your life and to highlight the traits that make you an excellent candidate for the university community. Post photos of yourself engaging in community service projects, volunteering at the homeless shelter or playing an instrument. Posting positive content on social media can help you stand out among the sea of faceless names that the university has to choose from.
The bottom line is that social media is a digital extension of your college admissions application. Prospective students are advised to avoid adding anything to social media that they would not all to their application. This includes profanity, hate speech, inappropriate content and politically charged speech. Students should search for themselves online and see what content appears. If the content is particularly bad, there are companies that can work to clean up their reputation online before an admissions officer has a peek at it.
When it comes to college admissions, the digital age has changed the way students apply and are accepted to college. No longer are good grades, test scores and an essay enough. Students are now viewed as multi-faceted people who have the power to add value to the campus community or detract from it. Students in colleges across the country have experienced having their offers rescinded based on what they post on social media and this trend is only expected to continue.
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