Do colleges check social media before admitting students? Yes, Department of College and University Admissions can do Check in on teens and 20-somethings through public-facing social media platforms. However, whether they actually do so is another question.
According to a survey conducted by Kaplan Test Prep in 2020, about 65% of admissions officers view social media as “fair game”. Browse applicants’ TikTok, Instagram and other accounts.
Here’s what to know about why colleges look at your social media, and how to optimize your feed to help, not hurt, your chances of admission.
Yes, colleges can see the public version of your social media accounts, but they don’t have some kind of secret, government-like power to access your personal information. It’s highly likely that your social media behavior will only be brought to their attention if it causes a stir.
For example, in 2017, Harvard University Offers of admission to 10 incoming, first-year students were revoked after they were found sharing hateful memes through a private Facebook group chat. And in 2019, Harvard retracted its admissions offer to a notable student who had made racist remarks in private chats and Google Docs two years earlier.
|Admissions Officers Who View Social Media as “Fair Game”|
|● 2020: 65%|
Except for notable online behavior, the admissions officer will review your grade transcripts and standardized test scores as well as your college application essay, But although schools want students who are able to perform in the classroom, they also want people who are a positive part of a diverse yet safe campus.
It’s not hard to figure out what types of digital violations could hurt your chances of college admission or financial aid. But here are two buckets of behavior to avoid:
Evidence of underage drinking or other illegal behavior
There’s nothing wrong with multiple high school party photos. They can really help you. For one, admissions officers want to enroll well-rounded students who have social lives.
For another, photos can show that you are comfortable interacting with a wide variety of peers. Just make sure the images cast you in a positive light and can’t be misinterpreted.
insensitive or offensive language or content
Yes, college campuses are ripe for debate, even protest, and admissions officers don’t necessarily shy away from students with ideas who have a platform. But be careful not to hurt someone else’s views in the process of your social media posting. Words or images that demean someone else should be considered off-limits.
A test to avoid crossing the border: Will you share this experience or opinion during your personal sitting with the Admissions Officer? If not, then there you have your answer.
To be safe, also consider avoiding posts that are funny but could be misunderstood. You can be punished by perception, not reality.
|Ways to Limit How Colleges See Your Social Media|
Adjust privacy settings to limit who can see your content
Anonymize your account so colleges can’t associate it with your name
Scour your accounts for any language, imagery or information that could cast you in a bad light, including:
Ask parents and others to browse your account to see anything you may have missed
When applying to colleges or graduate schools, your first thought may be to check your privacy settings on popular platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
While this is a safe option, view your social media profiles as vehicles for telling a positive story to admissions officers. In fact, according to a Kaplan survey, 42% of admissions officers who viewed social media profiles said it had a positive impact on students’ applications.
Here are five ways to improve your social media presence:
your college application, with well-written essays and killer letters of recommendation, should present you in the best possible light. There’s no reason why your tweets shouldn’t be too. And the ways to do this go beyond posting with correct spelling and grammar.
If you wrote a college essay about helping your younger siblings through tough times, for example, an admissions officer might see pictures of them on your Facebook profile. Similarly, your online profile can be a good place to post photos of your successes, such as receiving academic awards or playing on your high school sports teams.
It may be wise to look through your past photos on these platforms as well. You may find one or two that an admissions officer will question if you are the same applicant who nailed their paper application.
Bonus Tip: Remember that the first thing colleges will look for on social media are your profile pictures. If yours is professional but appropriate for your age, you can make a strong first impression.
It is a smart move to like and follow the social media profiles of your favorite schools. Take it a step further by finding suitable ways to engage with schools on these platforms. You can comment on a school’s post, or tag the school during your post college visit,
Be wary of going out on social media to “reach out” to your school if others are still considering you. The admissions officer at your “target” school may be fired. You wouldn’t even want to make fun of your “security” school.
You can also display your interest in a particular subject. For example, if you are being considered by a university’s College of Business, an admissions officer may like to know that you Follow top financial experts online,
Your college essay is a way to tell schools about your deepest desires and strongest passions. But your social media profiles can also be a vehicle to showcase your interest in, well, whatever interests you. You may be one of the following, to name a few examples:
- Aspiring science major who tweets the latest news from NASA
- Teen reporter linking to her latest blog post
- Musicians posting videos from their weekend concerts
Enjoying your favorite pastime online gives schools a chance to see who you are beyond your grades.
Like negative impressions, positive ones can be gleaned from your Instagram account and Facebook photo gallery. So don’t worry about hiding them from school admissions departments.
On the flip side, be careful how you appear in friends’ photos, especially on platforms that allow users to tag people without their consent. You don’t want an admissions officer to find a particular image and get the wrong impression.
If you apply to college in January of your senior year of high school, it may be a few months before an admissions officer makes a final decision. This would be the period between January and March, when your social media profiles can be reviewed.
If this strengthens your case for admission, use this time to be your online advocate. Connect the dots for an admissions officer who may be over the fence. If you focused your application essay on a senior project, for example, post updates about its progress.
You can also use your profile to document your Search for College Scholarships, Posting about applications and awards can let colleges know that you are serious about finding your way onto campus.
If you haven’t applied to schools yet, consider including a link to your LinkedIn profile in your college application. This way, you can also point admissions departments to your social media platforms of choice.
Bonus Tip: Keep in mind that your school may also use a social-media-like mobile app called ZeeMee that connects schools with their potential students. This can be another way to share your story.
When you read that 10 potential Harvard students were told they are no longer welcome in the Class of 2021, your gut reaction might be to close all your social media accounts. Less dramatically, you can choose to restrict public access to accounts.
Depending on your situation, they may be the wisest step to take. But consider that you are in control of your narrative.
If you close your accounts, you lose a way to state your case for getting admission in a particular college.
So, instead, consider turning your social media feed into something positive for admissions officers to see. It can push you to the top and help you get accepted.
And if you plan to work at school, consider Cleaning up your Google search results And also social media pages to impress potential employers.