Social Media and College Admissions

It’s like your worst nightmare. Your dream school sent you another letter after the “Congratulations!” letter, and this time, it was to rescind your admission. Earlier in the year, Harvard College rescinded admissions offers to at least ten prospective members of the Class of 2021 after the students posted sexually explicit memes and racist messages in a private Facebook group chat.

That’s right, they thought it was private, and yet, it wasn’t.

Your social media profiles are being viewed by college admissions officers more and more. And what you post can influence their perspectives. A lot of time they look at your profile with a sense of curiosity – “this student is so interesting! I wonder what they look like. Let me Google them.” Something negative or inflammatory can leave a bad taste in their mouth. And when they re-read your application, they’re already skewed. Like what would happen if you stalked one of your acquaintances and built an image in your head even before you met in person. It happens.

So with that in mind, what can you do?

Well, in addition to getting started with your essays (really, you should), here are a few things you should do to clean up your social media profiles.

Don’t Go Invisible: This may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s the lazy way out. Like with the Harvard students, private doesn’t mean private. Don’t use that fake name or that totally stringent profile. Instead, control what you’re posting.

Which gets us to Do Use it To Your Advantage: Share what you want to highlight about you – that interesting project, a YouTube video of your piano concert, your blogposts on socially responsible politics. Just like with your application, you can use that online profile to showcase yourself!

Don’t Raise Questions: You don’t need to make it completely squeaky clean – it’s ok to post photos of a vacation, or a hangout with friends. In fact, a lot of admissions officers can sense when you’re being authentic vs. overly curated. But don’t do anything illegal, irresponsible or controversial. Don’t trash people on your status. You want the Admissions Officer to like you.

Do Diversify!: There are so many different mediums, use them! Instagram, Twitter, Soundcloud, Blogspot. We’ve had students who have shared their musicality with a Soundcloud account and poets who’ve shared photos inspiring their work on Instagram. We’ve even had students who were “discovered” on these mediums and published! Think beyond just one medium.

Do Stalk Them!: Follow schools, learn about them. They’re using their social media well. Get glimpses of the life on campus through Instagram and Snapchat and follow their Facebook and Twitter account to learn more about admissions deadlines and happenings on campus. If you visit, post photos and engage with them but be smart. If you put a post of “Columbia is my dream! Can’t wait to wear that blue!” NYU, may not be as pleased or trust you when you write about how much you like that school.

Don’t Waste Time: Your time is valuable, so don’t spend it all creating the “perfect” online profiles to impress admission officers. If they do look you up online, they’re not going to spend hours combing through your posts. Use that time for application essays, your grades, things that matter. If you want them to look at something, include it in your application in the supplement section but recognize they may not spend too much time on it.

With that, get cracking on your applications! And good luck!