I applied to college by filling out an application with a pen and typing my essays on a typewriter. When I wanted to fill out another application, I repeated the entire process over again.
Only a few people applied to many colleges then, in large part because there was no Common Application to make it easy. There was no internet or social media and thus no online presence to help (or damage) your chances for admission.
In previous articles, I have discussed how using social media and building a powerful personal brand can help you be successful in business and how it can help you get the job you always wanted. So, when I recently was asked to speak at a New Jersey high school about personal branding and social media for students, I discovered some very interesting things about the impact of an online brand on college admission.
In a survey of 43 colleges and universities published in a recent Chicago Tribune article, 67 percent of schools said they Googled a prospective student, and a whopping 86 percent researched their social media. Kaplan points out that it often goes the other way, too — 42 percent of admissions offices reporting that students actually request that admission officers look at their social media. And that number is increasing every year.
Also, according to Kaplan, an eye-opening 35 percent of college recruiters said that, when checking up on a student’s online presence, they found something that negatively impacted an applicant’s chances of getting in.
With that in mind, here are my 10 social media tips for students to improve their college admission chances:
1. Professional profile picture
What you look like shouldn’t matter, but it can. That’s why you should make sure you have a professional profile picture on ALL of your social media platforms (even Snapchat). College admission, testing and tutoring fees can cost thousands. Why not spend a little bit more and hire a professional photographer to take proper profile pictures?
2. Complementary posts only
And I don’t mean you need to compliment others. Your posts need to complement you and your brand. Never post anything on social media that you wouldn’t want a college recruiter to see. Avoid salacious behavior, suggestions of violence and any kind of bullying. Employ the Grandmother Rule: Don’t post anything on social media that you wouldn’t show to your grandmother. Google yourself frequently to make sure everything looks good.
3. Consistency of information
Your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter profiles should always be up-to-date and match the information on your resume and college application exactly! A top reason to get rejected for admission is having contradictory information on your profiles.
4. Untag and unfollow when necessary
Better to upset a friend than get rejected from the college of your choice because you are tagged in an inappropriate post. Untag yourself from any questionable photos or content. Unfriend or unfollow yourself from any friends who post questionable photos or content.
5. Show your interests
Post content that underscores your interests. Share interesting and relevant articles, upload your music and artwork and share photos or videos from your sporting events or performances — and be authentic. College recruiters are very good at telling when you are not being you.
6. Your own website
Having a website is a good way to show your entire personal brand in one location and in a way that is unique to you. It’s a way to show you are an original thinker and can express yourself articulately. Having your own URL (it’s best if it’s just “yourname.com”) and website is a quick way for a college recruiter to learn about you.
Plus, having a website with the proper URL improves your SEO (Search Engine Optimization), so recruiters will find you and see what you want them to when they Google you.
7. Blogging & videos
You should be writing and doing videos about the areas you are interested in. There is no better way to show a college you are articulate, passionate and knowledgeable. If you haven’t written articles yet, take some of your better school work and use that. Creating a video of something you are passionate about shows your communication skills, and both blogs and videos are searchable (improved SEO). These also have the added benefit of being tools or added material you can send when a particular subject comes up.
8. Proper social handles & email address
Your social handles and email address should match your name as close as you can. Open a Gmail account for applications if you don’t have one. Aol.com and the other oldie domains scream to the college admissions officer that you aren’t tech savvy and aren’t with the times. Be professional — no cutiepie1234 or RedSoxSuck handles.
Related: 11 Habits of Truly Happy People
9. No politics
No politics posting in public places. In today’s highly charged environment, one post that says “Make America Great Again” could mean rejection if your application reviewer is a Democrat. If you need to post about politics, do it in a private or closed group.
10. Follow your college everywhere
This is a big one. Follow the schools you are applying to on all their social platforms in order to stay informed, not just about events relevant to your application, but also to ensure you are up to date for any in-person interview.
There is no doubt that social media, when used the wrong way, can negatively impact a college application. But, it’s equally apparent that proper use of social media — building a powerful personal brand through your online presence — can significantly increase the chances of being accepted. That’s why more and more students are using social media technique to supplement their traditional applications.
Follow their lead and use social media regularly to build a powerful personal brand and gain a big advantage when applying to the college of your dreams.