How Social Media Can Support Your College Applications
What really makes you, you? Perhaps it’s a passion for cooking you discovered after the disappointment you felt the first time you tasted a Hot Pocket. Maybe you’re a cyclist with sticky notes about making your hometown more pedestrian-friendly covering the walls of your room. It might be your burning passion for helping kids learn English as a second language based on your own experiences immigrating to the U.S. at a young age.
Admissions officers will be digging through your application looking for the “thing” that makes you tick, and they will want to know how you utilize that passion and drive. And now, more so than ever before, they look beyond your actual application and explore your online presence to find that “thing” as well. In other words, people are going to be scrolling through your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles to get a more holistic picture of who you are while they review your application.
The bulk of the content you contribute to the internet could be a lot of things: thoughtful commentary on world news, events or pages to raise awareness about an organization or a cause you’re involved with, even… short videos of you bike-jousting in your friend’s back yard. Of all the things that you post, it’s important to remember that any of them can be considered as an extension of your student profile. That means that at some point or another it will most likely be seen by someone who’s going to help decide whether or not you get an acceptance letter.
Fear not. This isn’t a reason to freak out, stop reading this article, and adjust your privacy settings right this second. The trick is not to fixate about every little post or picture you’ve ever made public and how it could hurt you, but to instead focus on the things you can post to help admissions teams see what an awesome, unique, and talented person you are. There’s a really exciting opportunity for you to leverage your social media profiles, blog, or e-portfolio to shed light on your hobbies, skills, and passions, some of which may not have otherwise received the attention or spotlight that they deserve.
So let’s explore a few hypothetical examples of the kinds of things you might want to use your online presence for to look like an absolute catch to the colleges you’re applying to.
1. Add your work or volunteer experience to LinkedIn
Here’s an easy one. Do you volunteer somewhere? Are you a Big Brother or Big Sister? Have you taken the initiative to go out and find a job or start a summer business? Put the experience you have (whether it’s work or volunteer) into your Linkedin Profile (it won’t take you more than a few seconds). There’s even a place to add work experience to your Facebook Profile. Do that too! Just make sure it’s accessible when someone looks you up.
2. Share links to your artwork, photography, or writing samples
Have you created, designed, or written things you’re proud of or have received recognition for? Maybe you designed some awesome flyers for your friend’s really awful punk band. Perhaps you wrote an article for your school paper that won an award, or you’ve been submitting your photography to a stock photo site for years and have had thousands of people pay for or download your images. You have a “thing” and no matter what it is, make sure that admissions teams can find it easily when they search for you. Create an album or add links on Facebook/LinkedIn. Tweet out links to your work. You get the picture.
3. Blog (or vlog) about whatever it is that you do
Let’s say you are an absolute beast when it comes to… parkour. We’re not just talking about jumping a short fence and rolling into a somersault here. We’re talking about feats of aerial awesomeness, frontflips, 540 kick-scoot-slants, gainer-cart full twists all over the place, every day, all day.
In this case, you’ve got a hobby/passion that has helped you develop discipline and strength through practice and determination (something you’ll probably even use for an essay topic). What better way to complement an essay about how parkour helped you develop confidence, discipline and faith in yourself than with a series of video tutorials you posted to YouTube or Instagram, or a blog series for beginners.
Chances are parkour isn’t your thing, but maybe ballet is. Maybe building model airplanes is your jam. Is surfing what you excel at? Have you been crocheting since you were four? Can you now crank out a 12.5 x 12.5 ft blanket in an hour and a half? You have an opportunity to share your knowledge here.
Whatever you do, trying (even a little bit) is better than doing nothing
At one point or another, someone on the admissions team at the school you’re applying to is likely going to key your name into Google. Make sure they don’t come up with a blank slate, either because you’ve shut everyone out with privacy settings, or simply made zero effort to show any personality (because anybody can just not try at all). Your social networks are going to be used as an additional window into your life and the things you’re passionate about, so make sure you’ve at least attempted to use them to work on your behalf when it comes to the college admissions process.
If you’re nervous about your profiles…
Some of you might be reading this post and thinking, “Wow! I definitely have some things I can do a better job of showcasing.” Hopefully at the very least you’re thinking, “better go add x, y or z activity to my LinkedIn profile!”
On the other hand, some of you might have spent the entire time you were reading this thinking about all the negative things that might be lurking in your timeline. If that’s you, then you should start by thinking about these two things when you post something on Facebook, or fire off a Tweet moving forward:
- What does this content/message that I’m putting out into the world say about me as a person?
- Would I want an admissions team at my dream school to see this?
If what you’re posting could give people the impression that you’re a bully, a racist, a raging narcissist, or someone who says the first thing that comes to mind without thinking about what it might mean to others, you probably shouldn’t be posting it. And if you’re really worried about the current state of your profiles, don’t be, just go tidy up. 🙂
Here’s one more hot tip for making your social media and overall online presence work for you. If you’re interested in a specific school, follow their admissions office on Twitter! Like their Facebook Page. Tweet at them, or at alumni and ask questions! It’s just another way to show demonstrated interest in the school you want to attend.
Jon Frank graduated from both Brown University and Harvard Business School before cofounding his college admissions consulting company, Admissionado, in 2007. In his spare time, Jon can be found jet-setting around the world to give speeches (in Asia, especially), indulging in Chicago’s rich selection of ethnic restaurants, or keeping up with politics alongside his trusty cat, Buster Douglas.