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If you’re like most teens, you probably use social media on a daily basis. In fact, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 71% of teens use more than one social media platform, and a huge majority check these platforms daily. As more and more of your personal information becomes present on online platforms, such as social media, you may be wondering if you should be worried about how colleges might perceive your online presence.

 

Your worry is not unfounded, as made evident by the 2017 revocation of a dozen Harvard acceptances after students were reported for making offensive jokes on a social media platform. Still, you may wonder to what extent exactly you should worry about your social media accounts being scrutinized by college admissions committees. Are they checking every account? Will they pour over every picture?

Luckily, this is no longer a mystery. In the 2017 Survey of College and University Admissions Directors, admissions representatives from around the country openly discussed their approaches to social media and their beliefs about whether or not your accounts should bear weight in the college application process. To learn more about how much your social media accounts are reviewed by college admissions committees, read on.

 

Do College Admissions Committees Routinely Review Social Media Accounts?

 

It’s not possible to generalize how much college admissions committees review social media accounts because the answer does vary from school to school, but in general, most admissions directors reported this year that they do not believe that social media accounts should bear weight in the college application process. In fact, 57% disagree or strongly disagree that social media should play any role in college admissions at all.

 

On the other side, though, 14% agree or strongly agree that social media should be considered in college admissions decisions, and 8% revealed that they do routinely check social media accounts, but of course we can’t be sure which admissions directors these are.

 

That being said, the survey also revealed that “many colleges may not routinely check social media activity but could become aware of it through other means.” Admissions directors were split on whether they should weigh social media if they are made aware of it through outside sources, as was the case with the Harvard students whose acceptances were revoked. If someone else draws the attention of an admissions counselor to these accounts, they may or may not choose to consider what they find there.

 

What Does This Mean For Your Social Media Use?

 

Since there is no complete consensus about social media use, you can’t really rely on any specific school to check or turn a blind eye to your social media presence. Instead, you should be aware that some colleges can and do check your social media accounts. Even if these colleges are in the minority, you should be prepared for the possibility that social media accounts may be checked, and that it’s always possible that someone could report any egregious social media use to an admissions committee.

 

You should also keep in mind that nothing online is truly private. Even if you think that you have your accounts locked down with restrictive privacy settings, there is always the chance that someone could screenshot your account and post it elsewhere.

 

Ultimately, you need to use your own good judgment about what you post online. Think of your social media accounts as a reflection of who you are, not just as a student and college applicant, but also as a person. Take some time to go through your past posts and clean them up, if necessary. You may not be able to completely scrub them from the the annals of Internet history, but you can at least ensure that they are no longer front and center on your current accounts.

 

Finally, remember that you don’t have total control over your own social media presence; the company you keep is important too. Friends and acquaintances can often tag you in posts or comment on material that you’ve posted. Consider limiting access to your content if you have contacts who habitually post unflattering or questionable content.

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Use Social Media to Your Advantage

 

Social media doesn’t need to have negative connotations. There are plenty of ways to leverage social media to your advantage, using it to polish your online presence and to connect with colleges and employers.

 

One way to leverage social media to your advantage is by using it to showcase your unique talents and passions. Choose a platform that aligns with your talents and goals, and then polish your account to reflect well on them. For example, if you’re into creative visual arts, you might create an Instagram account or YouTube channel dedicated to highlighting your work in this area.

 

Finally, LinkedIn is a great way to network, both academically and professionally. By creating a LinkedIn profile while you’re still in high school, you begin to lay the foundation for important connections and an established, professional online presence. Connect with college advisors, admissions representatives, and department heads to get the inside scoop at colleges on your list.

 

To learn more about using LinkedIn, check out our post How to Use LinkedIn in High School.

 

For more information about your online presence or how admissions committees will review your candidacy, consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from college admissions to career aspirations, all from successful college students.

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Kate Sundquist

Kate Sundquist

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.
Kate Sundquist

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