Good Digital Parenting
Blog | Jan. 20, 2016

Keeping Your Profile Pristine But Public During College Application Season

Student, American University

When it comes to prepare for college and the application process, there’s a new step for college-bound students to consider: social media presence. Applicants are no longer being judged on just their grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, and essays. Whatever a quick Google search says about them now plays a critical role in how admissions officers will view their application.

Of course, students don’t have full control over what the Internet has to say about them. But one thing they can control, and use to their advantage, is their social media presence. Social media allows teenagers to represent themselves online and connect with friends, but it can also allow admissions officers to see applicants in a poor light if applicants misrepresent themselves.

Advantages of Keeping your Social Profile Public

When I was going through my own college application process, I was advised by countless teachers and counselors to consider my social media presence. But the advice I was given was to make sure my accounts had the highest privacy settings possible and delete any pictures with alcohol or sexually references in them.

While this is definitely one way to go, I don’t think high school students necessarily need to put their profiles into hibernation just to apply to college. In fact there are actually ways that having a public social media profile can benefit college applicants and even enhance their applications. Of course, my guidance counselor was absolutely right to tell me to remove anything even slightly risqué from my social media profiles. However, I was never explained the opposite side: that having tasteful social media profiles can show an applicants positive traits and show admissions advisors how engaged they are.

Having a public profile could allow applicants to reflect their resume in a more personal way. Did you write your college essay about being captain of your soccer team? Include pictures of your team and post about some of your best games. Passionate about a social justice issue? Share articles or retweet things that reflect your opinions or values. Seeing your resume or interests supported on social media will show colleges that applicants really do care about them, and that it wasn’t just a fluffed-up part of your application.

Another way using social media can be beneficially is for applicants to interact with schools and programs they are interested in. Many colleges and universities will have an account just for their admissions department, intended to interact with prospective students. Twitter is especially great for asking questions, sharing your excitement about applying, or showing your interest in a school or program. Admissions officers will be happy to see applicants that are engaged and actively interested in their university.

It is Your Call

Ultimately, applicants need to consider how their social media profiles will look in the eyes of admissions officers. It sounds a little ridiculous, but during my application process, I would creep through my own profile and try to consider how an admissions officer would view my pictures, statuses, and articles I had shared. It helped me to consider how some harmless pictures may reflect poorly on me, and also see the benefit of having pictures from my high school’s theatre productions or choir experiences available. 

At the end of the day, applicants should decide what’s best for them and their social media preferences during college application season. It can be great to create a public, personalized profile for colleges to view, but there’s also nothing wrong with just switching on your privacy settings and deleting any risky posts. Applicants just need to be aware that their social media is, for better or worse, a part of their application. All it takes is a little tweaking!

Photo courtesy of Flickr.