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Social Media Trends in College Admissions: What to Know for 2017

It’s no secret that teens are connected online, with more than 71% of teens using more than one social networking site. As social media becomes more of a staple in everyday life for college bound students, many wonder how social media will affect the college admission process. While social media was once seen as a way to catch “bad behavior” and ruin college chances, it’s now turning into a tool to actually help students improve their chances of admission to their top-choice colleges.

Snapchat Is #1
These days, Snapchat is the most popular social networking platform among teens. While the nature of this app – disappearing images and messages – was at first concerning to parents and educators, it’s now becoming a popular recruitment tool for colleges looking to distribute more information about their institution to prospective applicants.

Many colleges, like Harvard University, Brown University, and more have Snapchat accounts that show campus life, day-to-day activities of students, and more. The “student takeover” is popular, with one student running the account for the day, taking viewers through their daily schedule of classes, activities, and more. Even DJ Khaled, the popular producer who has made a name for himself on the platform, is partnering with college access non-profits to host over 20 Snapchat college tours.

Some colleges are even using Snapchat to deliver important admissions information – like decisions.

What does this mean for students? In addition to following colleges on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, follow them on Snapchat, too. This is another way to learn about the college, what it offers to students, and how you may fit into the campus community. As always, be careful what you post. Colleges can follow you back, so better to be safe than sorry. Be mindful of what you post and how you interact with a prospective college on the platform.

Application-Specific Platforms Like AdmitSee and ZeeMee Growing
Instead of using regular social media profiles to highlight their interests and other information about themselves, students are turning to platforms like AdmitSee and ZeeMee to showcase their work and accomplishments online. These platforms are specially targeted toward college applicants, and aim to be the “LinkedIn of college admissions.”

What does this mean? These platforms are meant to help students network and gain insight into the college admissions process in order to improve their chances of admission. Students can use ZeeMee to highlight accomplishments and activities, record videos, post school work, and more. AdmitSee is more of a networking and information platform – and students pay for certain access – allowing students to see essays and resumes of students who were admitted to certain colleges and gain feedback on their own profile and essays.

Colleges are starting to embrace these portfolio-type social networking sites, with colleges like Carnegie Mellon adding a space on their application specially asking for the link to applicants’ ZeeMee profiles. This is optional, of course.

While it’s not college admissions specific, and doesn’t offer as many student-focused features, some students are also turning to LinkedIn to highlight their resume when applying to college.

What does this mean for students? Take advantage of tools that can help you showcase your talents, awards, activities, accomplishments, and more. You don’t have to craft the “perfect” online resume or portfolio, but if you have work to showcase, these outlets can be a great alternative to just sharing links on your Facebook or Twitter profiles.

Colleges Still Checking Social Media – But What Are They Looking For?
According to the most recent survey by Kaplan, 40% of college admissions officers visit applicants’ social media profiles to learn more about them. But is it all bad? Not necessarily. As social media has evolved over the last decade, so has the admission office’s approach to it. Most of the time, admissions officers are visiting profiles at the invitation of the applicant to learn more about talents, activities, or other interesting tidbits that add depth or additional context to the students’ applications. In fact, 37% of those surveyed said they’ve found something online that positively impacted a student’s application. Even Harvard’s office of admission has said most of their social media research on applicants is for positive information.

That doesn’t mean that social media can’t hurt an applicant. That same Kaplan survey found that 37% of admission officers have found things online that could negatively affect an applicant – mostly illegal activity like underage drinking, other criminal offenses, or inappropriate posts or behavior.

What does this mean for students? The same advice we’ve been giving for years remains true – if you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see it, don’t post it! You don’t have to “hide” online by creating fake accounts or using fake names. Instead, keep your profiles clean and use them to highlight your activities and interests.

Social media can be a powerful tool when applying to college – from just learning more about schools to providing information for admissions officers when they’re evaluating your applications. Stay informed on what to expect when it comes to social media and college admissions, and always be smart when posting online.

For more information on the latest college admission trends, including how social media impacts the admissions process, download our free college admissions guide and be sure to join our mailing list.