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Social Media as a College Prep Tool

The college preparation process, more often than not, begins with a simple web search. Parents and students have been utilizing the Internet for years as a way to learn more about colleges, what it takes to gain admission, and what they need to do now to help gain an acceptance to a top-choice college. Social media has become the next frontier in the college admissions process, with colleges, parents, and students all signing on in an effort to connect with one another, learn more about each other, and, ultimately, help students gain acceptance to their top-choice colleges.

While nothing can substitute the expertise of a college counselor or independent consultant, the Internet and social media sites are often a backup resource for college-bound students, as many accounts that offer college prep advice are often run by those same college counselors. Concern surrounding social media and college admissions has often focused on how social media can keep students out of their dream school, but, in reality, the conversation should highlight how social media can be a powerful tool to help students get in.

Why social media matters in college admissions.
Social media has become part of our everyday lives, so it’s no surprise it has made its way into the college admissions and prep process. According to a Pew Research study, 92% of teens go online daily and 71% of teens aged 13-17 are on more than one social media platform, with Facebook being the most popular. Another study found that teens spend more than 7.5 hours each day consuming media – including watching TV, social networking, and more. Simply put: colleges want to reach students and they know the best way to do it is via social media. As a result, 96% of colleges use social media in their recruiting efforts according to NACAC.

But social media isn’t just a recruitment tool for colleges. In many ways it can serve applicants better, offering information and insight into colleges that, just a decade ago, was only available in glossy brochures and on stand-alone college websites.

How to use social media in your college prep.
We know that colleges use social media to connect with students – with the ultimate goal of encouraging them to apply and, if admitted, enroll. But how can students use social media to enhance their college preparation and application strategy? Just as colleges use social platforms to recruit students, students can use social media to show off their best qualities to schools and learn more about them.

Research schools. This is probably one of the most beneficial and straightforward ways to use social media in college prep. Social media offers information on a college – straight from the source. By following colleges on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and more, students can learn about the school’s campus, students, events, programs, and more. It’s a great way for students to get an inside look at a school, learn what they like about it, and help them decide if it’s a good fit.

Connect with students and admissions officers. Not only does social media offer information and updates directly from schools, students can also learn about colleges from the perspective of other students, and connect with admissions officers. Many admissions offices, and individual admissions directors, have their own accounts dedicated solely to providing admissions information, connecting with students and parents, and answering any questions applicants may have.

Get college admissions tips and advice. There are a number of resources on social media that offer tips to parents and students on how to navigate the college admissions process. The IvyWise Twitter and Facebook accounts send out relevant admissions tips and information daily, the ACT and SAT have Twitter and Facebook accounts that offer test prep tips, and a search of the #collegeprep hashtag on Twitter yields may resources for parents and students. Social media is a great way to find helpful information and connect with educational consultants who can offer insight into what it takes to get into students’ top-choice colleges.

Stay on top of campus news, admissions trends, and anything that might affect your application process. In 2013 when the Common Application experienced unprecedented problems, social media was one of the best places to get answers on what to do next. When hurricane Sandy hit the east coast just before early decision deadlines, colleges were frequently updating information on their social media channels to quickly inform students of deadline extensions and more. Just this year, with the delay of ACT scores, students and parents have turned to social media to inquire about how colleges are handling the situation and what students should do next. A large component of college preparation is staying informed about what’s happening in admissions, and by utilizing social media parents and students can get the most relevant information as soon as it’s available.

Highlight academic and extracurricular accomplishments. It’s no secret that admissions officers sometimes check up on applicants on social media. In fact, according to a Kaplan survey, 35% of college admissions officers have visited an applicant’s social media page to learn more about them. This is a perfect opportunity for students to use their social media presence to highlight passions, interests, accomplishments, and more. Experts have recognized that this is often how students use social media to prep for the college admissions process – as a kind of second view to reinforce the information that’s already in the student’s application. This has given rise to social platforms specifically geared toward helping kids get into college, likeZeeMee and LinkedIn profiles for high school students.

The future of social media and college preparation.
As the prevalence of social media grows, especially with the advancement of mobile devices that make it easer than ever for students to get online, its role in the college preparation and admissions process will grow, too. As new platforms emerge, colleges will learn to adapt and utilize those tools to reach students. Also, the idea of separate online admissions profiles, like ZeeMee, strictly for use when applying to college, might gain popularity –especially if the student “locker” announced with the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success College application comes to fruition.

Social media is a powerful tool in the college preparation process, and students should take advantage of the information that’s available when applying to college. But remember, just because it’s online doesn’t mean it’s true. While social media is extremely helpful, it’s not the only tool students should use. Verify information you read with specific institutions, fact-check admissions tips or rumors you read, and always be mindful of the source when utilizing college prep information you find on social media.