Are College Admissions Using Social Media for the Application Process?

January 9, 2022
By AdmissionSight

Are College Admissions Using Social Media for the Application Process?

We’ve all been warned about the permanency of the internet and the problems that can arise in the future for what’s posted today. The caution generally goes something like this “Be careful about what you post online; it stays there forever.”

Although this might come across as a little extreme at times, it highlights an important consideration for high schoolers, especially when applying to college. Many students aren’t aware that there are college admissions using social media when determining a student’s eligibility.

Let’s look at what college admissions officers are using social media for, what you should know about it, and how you can improve your chances of getting into college.

How many admissions officers look at social media?

So, now that you know college admissions using social media is a reality, you’re probably wondering how pervasive the practice is. Well, there are actually some accurate numbers on the frequency of the practice.

Kaplan – a leading test prep organization – has been tracking the use of social media in college admissions since 2008. In a 2020 survey conducted among admissions officers, they sought to determine just how common it was for schools to consider a student’s online presence in their final decision. The findings are telling in more than one way.

Popular social networking sites icons on phone screen.

First and foremost, the study made it clear that a growing number of admissions officers felt it was acceptable to go through an applicant’s social media profiles to determine who is eligible for acceptance and who isn’t.

65% of admissions officers didn’t see any issue with including social media as a component of the college admissions process. This is in contrast to previous years when the same survey was offered. In 2019, only 59% of admissions officers thought it was appropriate, while only 57% in 2018 believed the practice was okay.

Conversely, 35% of admissions officers thought that the practice of college admissions using social media is “an invasion of privacy” and, as a result, shouldn’t be pursued. With social media usage continuing to skyrocket and with the advent of new social media platforms, this information is crucial for high schoolers to know.

What are college admissions using social media for?

One of the first questions high schoolers and parents have about college admissions using social media is the purpose. What does social media have to do with a student’s qualifications to attend a school? It’s a great question, but there is a response.

While the specific motivations for using social media might vary between colleges, the general incentive is rather evident. Social media platforms are easily accessible to admission officers, and they provide valuable insight into an applicant’s personality – something that’s hard to glean from an application alone.

A phone user showing his phone screen with popular social networking applications.

Contrary to what many students believe, admissions officers aren’t just using social media to find “bad” things. It’s not a sort of “gotcha” that colleges heartlessly play on candidates that would otherwise have no trouble getting into the school.

Instead, social media is viewed by college admissions officers as another resource at their disposal to gain a better understanding of applicants. Other than letters of recommendation and personal statements, admissions officers don’t have much insight into the “real you.”

Applications provide only a small glimpse into the person behind the application. In the search for something a little more in-depth and tangible, colleges might look into your online presence where many students are more themselves.

You shouldn’t worry if you post wisely.

We’re not here to strike fear into the hearts of high schoolers who are avid users of social media. Instead, we’re focused on providing you with all the information you need to make the best decisions when preparing for college.

If you’re smart about what you post online, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Admissions officers aren’t going to expect the social media profiles of high schoolers to be dedicated to academics.

A person's hand holding a smartphone.

As long as what you’ve posted online isn’t compromising or embarrassing, you don’t have to think twice about it. And moving forward, you can add an extra level of scrutiny to your posting now that you know that content could end up getting seen by admissions officers.

The chances are in your favor…but there’s no guarantee.

There’s a good chance your social media profiles aren’t going to be scrutinized by admissions officers. First and foremost, the vast majority of admissions officers don’t use the technique when determining which students are eligible for acceptance and which aren’t. Secondly, the ones that do peruse social media profiles don’t do it with every student.

Although there’s always a possibility your social media profile will get viewed by an admissions officer, the odds are in your favor. It’s also important to keep in mind that the school to which you’re applying can impact the odds of this happening.

Generally speaking, private colleges are more likely to look into an applicant’s social media presence when compared to a public school. Why? Well, some of it has to do with the higher selectivity of these schools. Another major factor is the prestige and reputation private colleges and universities seek to maintain.

Despite the low chances of it happening, it’s still important to keep it in mind. No matter how small the chances, it’s always a possibility. And you’d hate to have a momentary lapse of judgment in the form of a social media post end up costing you your spot in great college.

Social media is important, but it’s not everything.

With so many factors to worry about when applying to college, it’s difficult for many students to know what to focus on. Even with college admissions using social media, this component doesn’t play nearly as large a role as other parts of your application.

As we mentioned before, there is a significant number of admissions officers who are visiting the social media profiles of students when making their final decision of acceptance or rejection. But these admissions officers aren’t basing their entire decision on what they find.

A person's hand holding a phone with icons of social media on the screen.

GPA, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, admissions essays, extracurricular activities, and other major components of your application still remain significantly more important to your chances of getting accepted.

In short, social media is important, but it’s not everything when applying to college. You should still focus the vast majority of your efforts on ensuring all parts of your application are up to snuff.

Tips for improving your social media for college admissions.

There’s no guarantee that admissions officers will look at your social media presence when determining your eligibility for their college. On the flip side, there’s no guarantee that they won’t take your online presence into account either.

As a result, many high schoolers prefer to take some precautionary measures to make sure something they posted online doesn’t end up hurting their odds of gaining admittance to their school of choice.

Here are just a few tips for improving your social media for college admissions:

Use the “grandma” filter.

We’ve all heard the question, “Would you do that if your Grandma was here?” Admittedly, it’s a tad annoying to hear when you’re on the receiving end, but it underscores an important point. Generally, people are on their best behavior when with their grandparents.

Extending this thought experiment, it’s safe to assume that what you’re comfortable doing and saying in front of your grandma is perfectly suitable for admissions officers to see. Unless you can convince your grandmother to manage your social media (which we highly doubt), simply ask yourself a question before posting anything online:

Would I mind if my grandma saw this?

If the answer is “yes,” then you should think twice about posting it because there’s a good chance it wouldn’t go over well with admissions officers either. If you wouldn’t mind having your grandma see it, there are good chance colleges wouldn’t think twice about seeing it.

This “grandma” filter can help keep you from posting anything that might be problematic with college admissions using social media. It’s not fool-proof, but it’s a great way to get yourself to start thinking critically about how you present yourself online.

Make your account private.

If you don’t feel like going through everything you’ve ever posted across all your social media accounts, or you don’t want to have to worry about college admissions using social media, make your accounts private.

Admissions officers aren’t seeing the private setting on your account as evidence of you trying to hide something. If anything, it shows colleges that you’re careful on social media and diligent about who can see what you post. This is good news for schools that care about how their students are perceived based on what they post online.

Nearly all social media platforms have robust security, and privacy features allowing you to create an impenetrable firewall that will prevent anyone who’s not a friend or follower from seeing your account. A quick Google search will show you how to do it if you’re not sure.

A person typing on their laptop for an Internet search.

Although you’ll keep admissions officers from being able to see what you post, it still shouldn’t give your carte blanche to post whatever you want. If you have followers, there are still people who can see what you post. You should only share something online with the mentality that it’s going to remain there forever, which leads us to our next point.

Think about the future.

If you think college admissions using social media to determine a student’s eligibility is the only time you’ll have to worry about your online presence, you need to think again. What you post online today can have major implications for your life way down the road.

For example, reviewing an individual’s social media is becoming increasingly common among employers. In fact, a survey in 2020 found that 67% of companies use social media platforms to screen and research job candidates.

If you’re sweating a bit just reading that, you’re not alone! It’s nerve-wracking to think about just how much impact your online presence can have on your future opportunities, both academically and professionally.

However, this realization is an effective tool to screen what you post. You might have an urge to put something online, but maybe that desire pales in comparison to the understanding of how it might negatively impact your future.

Delete problematic content.

Let’s face it. We’ve all posted something we’re not particularly proud of, whether it was personally embarrassing or even controversial. We all have lapses of judgment and periods of poor decision-making.

Schools with college admissions using social media to learn more about students won’t know the context of your post. There’s no way for them to determine how you feel about the post, and they don’t have the time to contact you for an official comment. Instead, they’re just going to take it at face value.

If there’s a potential that you might have posted something you don’t want admissions officers to see, it’s a good idea to go back through your social media history and delete it. Alternatively, if you don’t want to completely delete it, many social media platforms allow you to hide individual posts from the public.

Get off social media.

Whether you don’t want to go through the hassle of reviewing years’ worth of content, or you don’t want to mess with the potential of having college admissions using social media when determining your eligibility, you can simply get off social media.

It might seem like a bit of an extreme decision at first, but it actually comes with a lot of advantages, including:

  • Boosted confidence
  • Improved sleep
  • Improved mental health
  • Less anxiety and stress
  • Better posture
  • Decreased feelings of loneliness
  • Increased productivity

Keep in mind that this is by no means necessary to gain admittance to the school of your choice. However, some people might find that getting off social media altogether is an easier and healthier option.

You’ll completely remove the variable from potentially negatively impacting your personal, academic, or professional life while unlocking all of the advantages that come with getting off social media.

Many platforms have “temporarily disable” options where you can suspend your account with the option to sign back in whenever you want. This keeps others from being able to see your account while adding an extra layer of effort for you to sign in without deleting all of your content.

Use social media to your advantage.

Social media is often seen as a potential obstacle in the college admissions process. However, college admissions using social media isn’t a strategy to undercut otherwise eligible candidates. Instead, schools use these platforms to gain a better understanding of students since applications can only reveal so much about you.

When used correctly, your social media presence might be able to help increase your chances of getting into your chosen school. While other students are frantically trying to hide potentially problematic posts or shutting down their accounts altogether, you could post content that would position you as the perfect candidate for your desired school.

You could post pictures of you participating in extracurricular activities, provide updates of any awards or recognitions you’ve earned, and write about your academic achievements overall. It all might sound a little cheesy, but viewing your social media as part of your application can actually work to your advantage.

Keep in mind there’s no way to determine whether admission officers will look at your social media. So, taking the time to curate your profiles to catch the attention of admissions committees might not be the best use of your time. It’s all up to you and how you want to present yourself, but it’s crucial to manage your time wisely too.

Gain a better understanding of the college admissions process.

If you’ve never thought of college admissions using social media, you might be wondering what other parts of the college application process you don’t know about. It’s easy for high schoolers and even parents to feel overwhelmed with the entire transition.

To make matters worse, there is so much inaccurate and unhelpful information online that it’s difficult to identify what’s correct. Furthermore, even the accurate information is general and not targeted to your unique needs and goals. That’s where a college admissions officer can help!

At AdmissionSight, we specialize in helping high schoolers increase their chances of getting into their top-pick schools by boosting their knowledge of the college admissions process while improving all aspects of their college application.

With over a decade of experience and a proven track record of success, we’ve accumulated a valuable amount of insider expertise and knowledge to provide the most accurate and effective services for our students.

If you’re interested in learning more about what we offer and how it can help you achieve your academic goals, contact us today. We’ll schedule a free consultation to answer all of your questions.


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