Social Media: The Double Edge Sword for Prospective College Students
by Kathy de Jong, M.S., Independent Educational Consultant
Picture the high school student with great grades and near perfect test scores that has worked his entire life to get into his Ivy League dream school. He is accepted to Harvard University. Family and friends are ecstatic, and the final days of high school are filled with joy and excitement. And then what was once impossible happens. Harvard notifies the student that their offer to attend has been rescinded, and the student will not be part of their freshman class. The student is not only kicked out of Harvard, but now has nowhere to attend college in the fall. Why…bad decisions utilizing social media.
For the details, visit the Harvard Crimson article. To summarize, a Harvard Facebook Group was set up for the class of 2021. A smaller group of students splintered off and formed a private messaging group which encouraged inappropriate content inconsistent with Harvard standards. Content included comments, memes and photos about sexual abuse, racism and the holocaust. Harvard rescinded the admission offers of 10 students when screenshots of the conversation where obtained.
For the most part (and there are always exceptions), college admissions officers will tell you that they are not actively trolling applicant’s social media. However, that doesn’t mean that the content of a student’s social media, text, videos, etc. will not end up in the hands of the individuals that can make or break a student’s academic dreams. The same goes for students looking for employment. In many cases, employers will investigate a candidate’s social media presence.
While admissions officers, particularly at universities with tens of thousands of applicants may not be actively reviewing social media accounts to evaluate an applicant, increasingly they are turning to social media to learn more about about a student. Social media has the ability to take a college admission officer into a student’s home, school, community and personal life in a way that brings an applicant to life. This can be a great thing as long as the student has intentionally paid attention to the content they are generating online to ensure it puts him/her in the best light possible. According to a study done by Kaplan Test Prep, 35% of 350 college admissions officers surveyed utilized social media accounts to evaluate applicants. Of those, 47% percent said the social media content had a positive impact on their perception of the student, while 42% said it had a negative impact.
Social media will continue to be part of the college admissions process for the foreseeable future, so students need to be educated on the benefits and dangers of the online world as they enter high school.
Here are a couple of tips for all students as they enter high school.
Nothing is private online. Case and point, the students planning on attending Harvard in a private chat group. If you put it out there, even in sites with disappearing content such as Snapchat, someone can take a screenshot and preserve it for all time. Those ugly comments and explicit photos can re-appear. If you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see it, don’t post it on social media. This goes for comments on sites as well!
Google Yourself. Know what a college admissions officer, scholarship reader or employer might find about you online. If there is content that you wouldn’t want others to see, try to remove it at the source.
Consider Your Brand. Yes, we all have a personal brand, intended or not. Why not intentionally create your personal brand on social media to reflect your values and interests? Take a look at your Instagram or other social media accounts to see what the collection of images or content says about you. If there are things that don’t reflects well, remove them, and start building a brand that you can be proud of that tells your unique story.
College in 3-2-1 is preparing an informative and practical seminar and webinar for high school students on social media and the college admissions process. It will include specific strategies to make a college-bound student standout in the crowd and avoid the dangers. Be sure to get updates on dates and times by liking our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/collegein321 or signing up for our newsletter at the bottom of our website homepage www.collegein321.com.
College in 3-2-1 provides comprehensive college preparation services for high school students including high school course selection, college research and list development, application assistance, essay consultation, and financial aid, extra-curricular and summer enrichment counseling.