That loud exhalation you heard over the weekend was the sound of tens of thousands of high school students submitting their first circular of college applications before early deadlines on November 1 . For those of you who may have confidently put your personal statements and supplements in the hands of admissions officers at your first-choice colleges, great job! You’ve earned a well-deserved break from essay composing and resume building , and may actually want to share your status together with your friends on Facebook or your followers on Twitter. But before a person publish that tweet, take a take a step back, and think about the door you may be opening.
Engaging with College Social Media Accounts
Universites and colleges are using social media as much as their prospective students. Have you seen the Tumblr for the University of Michigan’s admission office ? Or maybe the Twitter account for Harvard ? These can be great methods to follow along with your favorite schools—and for more information about what they offer. But be cautious of over-connecting along with schools, particularly small ones. While Harvard (with half a million followers) might not notice that you show up in their mentions each day, Connecticut College (with just 6, 000) surely will. And it isn’t really just a school behind that account, it’s a real person who might even become reading your application. Every time you comment on a school’s Facebook post or reply to one of their tweets think about, “would I want this comment included as part of my application? ” If not, toss it.
Welcoming Attention with a Blog or Web page
I read an admission essay last year about a student’s personal goal to write a blog entry each day of his senior high school career. The essay was intelligent and engaging—it showed thoughtfulness, maturity, and wit. Naturally, I was thinking about finding the student’s blog to see also he had to share. When I got there, I was severely disappointed. The blog was no more than a daily sentence or two, typically covering trivial and premature high school minutiae. It was also linked to his Twitter account, where I found tweets containing insensitive and profane material. My opinion of the student plummeted.
Now, admissions officials almost never take the time to research an applicant’s web presence. There are too many applicants, as well as the web is too big. But when you compose an essay about a blog or include an activity entry about a social media marketing effort, you’re inviting an admission officer to seek you out. When you open the doorway to the web, make sure the content you’re sharing is representative of who you are within the same ways that your application is . It can take just one thoughtless tweet to push you into the deny pile at selective colleges and universities.
Social Media Safeguards
At the end of the day this is not something for you to lose a lot of sleep over. If you did not get into the college of your choice, it almost certainly has more to do with the competitiveness of the school’s applicant pool than that picture of you using a red Solo cup in your Facebook profile picture (please change that profile picture immediately, by the way). But that doesn’t mean that a person shouldn’t be careful. In the months between the submission of the application and your final enrollment down payment, ratchet up the privacy settings on your social media profiles. Protect your twitter posts. Make yourself unsearchable to people who are not “friends of friends” on Facebook. Facebook actually has a nifty tool in its personal privacy settings that allows you to see what your profile looks like to a accidental non-friend, and you can use that feature to see what an admission official might see when they stumble upon your page. Ask yourself, “Am I awesome with this? ” If this answer can be yes, then you’re fine. In the event that it’s a no, then it is time for a few small changes. Right after putting so much time and energy into the college admissions process , these last few steps will ensure your goals aren’t derailed by something totally silly and completely preventable.
Ian Fisher is a member of College Coach’s team of university admissions experts . Ian obtained his master’s in policy, corporation, and leadership studies from the Stanford Graduate School of Education. Just before joining College Coach, Ian worked well as a senior admissions officer with Reed College.