Do Colleges Look At Social Media? Yes, And You Can Use It To Your Advantage


Do colleges look at social media? You may not be surprised to learn that they do, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing! Below, join guest author, Alan Katzman, as he shares his research and insights on how social media plays a role in college admissions and how savvy students can use it to their advantage.

Social Media Can Help Students Get Into Their Dream School

Yes, you read that right.

College-bound high school seniors and juniors should dedicate some time to optimizing one or more of their social media profiles. By optimizing their social media, these students can curate a compelling digital presence and online portfolio that accurately reflects their activities, character, interests, experiences, and accomplishments.

College Admissions Officers Are Looking at Applicant Social Media

Whether it’s Kaplan Test Prep’s annual survey of college admissions officers or the AACRAO sourced social media survey,  we know that approximately one-third of college admissions officers in the United States viewed applicant social media during the last admissions cycle and 20% report viewing social media “regularly and routinely.”

We also know that up to 70% of college admissions officers consider social media to be “fair game” in their decision-making process and are open to clicking links and viewing digital content when invited by the student to do so.

alan katzman quote about colleges looking at social media

Social Media Should Be Used Proactively to Craft the Essay of Your Life

College admissions officers have neither the time nor the interest to search social media simply to find reasons to reject qualified applicants. When colleges look, logic dictates they look because they want to learn more about the applicant, opening the door of opportunity for the prepared applicant to set themselves apart from other qualified applicants.

Even before the pandemic, many selective colleges found it helpful to consider factors other than grades and test scores when assessing their applicants. Given the large number of qualified applicants who apply each year, it is virtually impossible to make viable objective distinctions based only on GPAs, SAT/ACT scores, activities, essays, and recommendations that all tend to look the same.

student taking achievable act test prep course

Admissions directors at these institutions say that most of the students they turn down are such strong candidates that many are indistinguishable from those who get in.

Having a digital presence that is hard to find or fails to tell colleges the digital story you would want to tell them is a missed opportunity to stand out.

Do Colleges Look at Social Media To Determine Character and Fit?

Many schools are placing an increased emphasis on personal qualities that will lead students to succeed in college. This renewed focus includes examining “intellectual curiosity, love of learning, leadership, collaboration skills, perseverance, good character, and grit” in addition to the standard “grades, rigor, curriculum, and other qualitative data.”

Social media is one way of delivering this missing and actionable information to admissions, enrollment, and financial aid offices. Not only can social media positively impact acceptance and scholarship decisions by showing an applicant’s readiness, abilities, skills, and character, but it can also be used to gauge an applicant’s interest in attending a particular college.

A student’s chances for admission will greatly improve once they understand how to utilize social media to demonstrate interest, convey good character, and showcase the skills and personal attributes colleges are looking for to set themselves apart from other qualified applicants.

Many Colleges Use Social Media to Proactively Engage With Students

Just about every college now has a prominent social media presence and encourages applicants to interact with them not only on popular teen sites such as Tik Tok, Instagram, and YouTube but on more adult-centric sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

Interacting with college officials, professors, alumni, and current students is a positive for applicants if, and only if, their social media is optimized for this purpose.

Remember that whenever an applicant sends a message to a college official using a social network’s native messaging system, that applicant is also necessarily transmitting a digital dossier containing all profile information specific to that social network. This includes all past posts, photos, friends, and followers.

As a result, colleges are routinely receiving full access to applicants’ digital DNA through social interactions.

By having their social media optimized for inspection, applicants can freely and safely interact with colleges using social media and may very well impress the right people as a result.

quote from article why students should submit social media to colleges if they want to get in

Enrollment Yield Algorithms

Schools can now get a complete picture of their applicants, including what they’re saying and thinking about them on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter – which could be even more meaningful than traditional data points like GPA and SAT. Colleges have begun to use algorithms that work on an individual student basis to profile and predict their behavior.

They use social media data, as well as the data supplied by the applications, to compute the likelihood a given student will enroll if accepted, the extent of financial aid needed by the student – or needed to seduce a relatively well-off student.

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