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.
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.
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.
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.
It is in the best interest of college-bound students to self-identify themselves to enrollment management systems.
This self-identification will enable the colleges they are interested in attending to populate their data feeds and track their social media engagements. Remaining a stealth applicant has no inherent benefit whether that student is being positioned for a safety, target, or reach college opportunity.
Beyond increasing the enrollment probability ratio by spending time on the school’s website and following college social media accounts, applicants can also use these same digital tools to demonstrate to the school that they are a good fit and possess the personal qualities needed to matriculate through to graduation.
How to Use Social Media to Get Into Your Dream College
Here’s how you use the information you just read.
Create a discoverable social media presence designed for colleges that showcases what colleges are looking for.
Here’s a list of three personal qualities your social media should show prospective colleges:
You can then place a link to your accounts on your application, resume, or the given spaces for links on the common app. And as we discussed earlier, colleges often click on those links, especially competitive colleges like the Ivy League and other top schools.
Using Social Media in College Admissions Is Easy, not Stressful
Applying to college is stressful. The application process often consists of endless tedious tasks. There’s essay writing, test prep, collecting letters of recommendation, maintaining a high GPA, and choosing a major. So, many of our parents worry that adding the creation and maintenance of college-focused social media accounts will add unneeded stress.
When we assist our students with this process, it takes us about an hour or two. To create and optimize a student’s social media account by themselves, it may take a student more time.
However, this is time well spent.
Social Media Makes a College Application Memorable and Unique
By using social media, you can do more than tell your story: you can show one.
Again, when given a link to a social media account, the admissions team will check them. And when they do, students have a compelling advantage over their peers.
A student’s social accounts humanize them to an admissions team. They turn a faceless collection of admissions data into a living breathing person that the colleges can see.
This is what you want. When you apply to colleges, the more you can control the impression you make the better.
In a nutshell, your social media should be crafted as a digital college essay that can be appended to and supplement their college applications.
Get into your dream school!
Ready to use your social media accounts to get into your dream school?
Build a personalized approach that will get you accepted to the college of your dreams. To get started, schedule a free 15-minute call with Odyssey College Prep founder, Marc Grey.