In 2013 the New York Times published a story entitled, “They Loved Your GPA, Then They Saw Your Tweets” and many took a pause, first realizing the impact of students’ online behavior. More recently in 2017, Football University tweeted, “Don’t let a 140 character tweet jeopardize a $140,000 scholarship.” While most parents now understand how a teen’s social media profile can harm them, new research also reveals how social media affects college admissions in a positive way.
A new Kaplan survey confirmed that of the nearly 300 college admissions officers polled, more than a third (36%) are using social media profiles to learn more about potential applicants. This is up from 25% last year, but down a bit since 2015, when 40% of admissions officers said they used social media to help make admission decisions.
We frequently read about teens losing scholarships or college acceptances due to careless posts or reckless tweets. One example was when Harvard University rescinded 10 students admissions due to their crude comments on a private Facebook page. It’s an excellent reminder that we should have zero expectations of privacy when it comes to digital space.
While the Kaplan survey supports this idea, it also presented another interesting point. Namely, that of the admissions officers who checked social media profiles, 38% saw a positive impact on prospective students, while 32% say they found a negative impact.
Social Media: A Student’s Asset
“Teens and young adults should be using their social media accounts as an asset,” Alan Katzman, founder of Social Assurity, which offers social media guidance to educators and college-bound students, tells Parentology. He suggests teens create, “…LinkedIn profiles or Twitter feeds that will impress college admission officers.”
The Kaplan results shared how social media can be harmful to students who post carelessly, such as pictures, videos or memes of underaged drinking, partying, and offensive content. However, it also reiterated how it can boost a student’s chances for admission by showcasing their interests. Examples include:
- Clubs (chess, school paper, etc)
“You have to learn to post content that won’t generate likes or follows from your group of friends, but toward your future audience, who will [use it to] try to determine who you are,” Katzman says, in reference to his clients’ potential college recruiters.
That said, a video from the Kaplan SAT & ACT YouTube channel offers this advice: “The bottom line? Social media shouldn’t be your main focus in the applications. Put your energy toward other, more important admissions factors, like your SAT and ACT scores, and your GPA.”
Building Your Teen’s Online Bio
If your teenager is getting ready to apply to colleges, it’s time to enhance their social media profiles by creating a presence that describes their passions (interests), goals, and accomplishments.
Select profile pictures that are appropriate, keeping in mind that on some sites like Facebook your image will be public. It’s time to retire silly avatars or photos with Snapchat stickers that may be immature or even inappropriate to some people.
If their email account is still one from their younger days, such as ILuvJoey@gmail.com, it’s time to consider one more age-appropriate, such as firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once they’ve decided on a new social profile, update all platform bios to match.
Never forget, no matter what the age, we never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Today, that first impression is usually what social media is saying about you. Fortunately, we can have some control over it.
Check out a summary of the study’s findings, below.
About the Author
Sue Scheff is a Nationally Recognized author, Parent Advocate and Family Internet Safety Advocate. She founded Parents Universal Resources Experts, Inc. in 2001. She has been featured on the Today Show, 20/20, Anderson Cooper and more. She’s also a contributor for Psychology Today, NBC’s Education Nation and Today Show Parents. You can follow her on Twitter and join her on Facebook.