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Social Media in 2021: What College Applicants Need to Know

Whether you’re glued to your social media accounts or more of an occasional user, it’s important to understand the role that your online presence will play when you apply to college. Kaplan’s most recent survey of admissions officers reveals that 65% believe that social media accounts are “fair game” during application review, a 6% increase from the year prior.

Students are more connected than ever and most have been using social media since they were old enough to create accounts. Social media is so normalized for any students that they don’t realize how their online activity could impact their admissions outcomes. Just last year, Marquette University rescinded an admissions offer when a student posted something inappropriate on Snapchat. Back in 2017, Harvard University revoked admissions offers of 10 students who participated in an offensive Facebook group.

While there’s no doubt that offensive posts are entirely unacceptable, students may be a little less clear about what kind of content they should focus on. Here at IvyWise, our team of admissions counselors are experts at what it takes to stand out for all of the right reasons, and this includes utilizing social media as a valuable tool. Keep reading to learn more about our top tips for students when it comes to social media usage throughout the admissions process.

Know the Facts

The role social media plays during the college admissions process has continued to evolve. From 2018 to present day, the number of admissions officers who actually visit applicants’ social profiles to learn more about them has climbed by 11%. Of the admissions officers who report checking social media frequently, 42% said what they found impacted their view of students positively, while 58% said their investigations had a negative impact.

What do all of these statistics actually mean for students? First, it’s evident that social media review is becoming increasingly commonplace during the admissions process. While it may have been relatively rare that an admissions officer would check out a student’s Facebook profile five years ago, that is no longer the case. Consequently, students in 2021 need to be careful about what they’re posting and ensure their social media accounts portray themselves in the best light possible. The good news is that this review process isn’t entirely negative. In fact, social media review can actually work in a students’ favor.

Focus on the Positives

Once you’re aware of the role social media can play in your admissions process, it’s time to use these channels to your advantage. Consider your social media activity as another opportunity to demonstrate your passions, interests, and the personality traits that set you apart, just in case an admissions officer does decide to review them. Instead of posting pictures or sharing stories you might later regret, focus on content that relates to your extracurricular activities and future goals. Consider sharing videos of your latest dance performance, a picture of your most recent fundraiser, and a news article about a scientific breakthrough that excites you.

Learn What to Avoid

In addition to prioritizing content that will have a positive impact, make sure none of your social media posts will end up working against you. Some students may be a little confused about what kind of social media content is appropriate to post and what should be avoided. A good rule of thumb is to avoid posting anything that you wouldn’t want your parents to see online. Similarly, if a picture or caption gives you pause, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and avoid sharing it. In 2021 in particular, students should be mindful of COVID-19 safety guidelines and hold off on posting (or participating in) any activity that could put your health at risk.

Don’t Forget the Research Side

Social media is a valuable tool for admissions officers and students. Do your own social media review of the colleges on your best-fit list to learn more about campus life. Start by following university accounts and keeping an eye out for new content and updates. To learn even more, search for groups and profiles that align with your specific interests. For example, if you’re a STEM applicant, you may choose to follow a social media account specifically for chemistry students or a profile dedicated to the pre-med track. Continue to monitor these social media accounts for a behind-the-scenes look at what’s happening on campus, the types of activities you may be able to look forward to as a student, and any relevant news announcements.

As Kaplan’s study indicates, social media is likely to continue to play an important role in the college admissions process. Consequently, students must be mindful of the content they are posting and ensure their profiles work to their advantage, instead of holding them back. At IvyWise, our admissions counselors provide guidance to students throughout every step of the college admissions process, including digital citizenship and social media best practices. For more information about IvyWise’s services, contact us today.

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