Social Media Today Affects College Admissions Tomorrow

Ready to start your journey?

Social media and college admissions are two things people don’t often think about at the same time, but since social media is a part of our daily lives, it’s important for prospective college students to understand its impact.

Social Media and College Admissions

Once you post something online, it is out in the world forever. Even if you have the best security measures, possibly even if you delete it, there is still the chance someone unexpected will see it.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

So, what presence are you putting online, and how might it affect your college admission opportunities?

Do Colleges Look at Social Media for Admissions?

student checking her social media account

Colleges typically don’t ask students to list their social media accounts on their applications, but that doesn’t mean they won’t look at them.

Admissions officers can still search for you online and discover your accounts on TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other sites. But do colleges actually take the time to research applicants’ social media presence? According to recent research, the answer is yes.

Kaplan recently surveyed admissions officers at almost 250 top colleges and universities in the United States. Of these, 27% of the admissions officers reported visiting applicants’ social media profiles to find out more about them. Additionally, 66% of the respondents believe social media profiles are fair game when making admissions decisions.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

If a college views your social media profiles, the type of information that you’ve posted will influence their response. Of admissions officers who stated they view applicants’ social media, 38% stated that their findings positively affected their perceptions of applicants. On the other hand, 57% reported discovering information that negatively impacted their perceptions.

Admissions officers typically appreciate posts that paint applicants in a positive light, such as:

  • Photos from extracurricular activities
  • Posts that showcase academic achievements
  • Evidence of volunteer work
  • Posts related to your passions
  • Pictures with friends and family members

By contrast, you should avoid making posts that may make you seem less desirable to colleges, such as:

  • Pictures that show illegal activities, such as underage drinking
  • Offensive language or imagery
  • Sexually explicit or violent content

It’s important not to assume you can hide potentially harmful or offensive content by setting your social media profiles to private. Admissions officers may still be able to view this material, especially if one of your followers takes screenshots and circulates them.

For example, several top schools recently revoked admissions offers after discovering that prospective students posted insensitive or racist memes, messages, and photos. You can protect your reputation by ensuring that your social media accounts represent you positively.

How to Prepare Your Social Media Profile for College Admissions

woman organizing her social media account

As you get ready to apply to colleges, it’s important to prepare your social media profiles for potential scrutiny from admissions officers. Here are a few strategies to make sure that colleges view your online presence positively:

  • Look yourself up online: Doing this lets you get a sense of what colleges might see if they decide to research you. You may also discover old content and outdated profiles that need to be removed.
  • Choose professional handles: If an admissions officer searches for you online, your social media usernames and handles will likely appear near the top of the results. Handles that contain jokes or offensive language can make a poor first impression. Using your full name in your social media usernames can make your profiles easier to find and help boost your credibility.
  • Use flattering profile photos: Most social media websites display a profile photo for every user, including people who have set their accounts to private. Happy and professional pictures may be perceived more positively.
  • Adjust your privacy settings: You can control what strangers see on your social media profiles with the help of privacy settings. Many websites allow you to completely hide your posts from anyone who hasn’t followed or friended you, allowing you to keep all your information private. Alternatively, you can use the privacy settings to leave most of your content public but restrict specific posts to designated followers.
  • Check tagged photos: It’s easy to control what you post online, but your friends may tag you in potentially unflattering photos and posts. It’s important to untag yourself from any content you wouldn’t want admissions staff to see. You can also ask your friends to remove negative posts.
  • Delete inappropriate content: It’s important to remove any content that could be interpreted as insensitive, inappropriate, or not in line with your current values. Depending on how long you’ve been active online, you may need to review several years of content to ensure your social media accounts are college-ready.
  • Build a professional LinkedIn profile: You can show off your academic and professional achievements by creating a LinkedIn profile. This website lets you display your education, work experience, skills, and volunteer activities and start building a professional network.

Doing these things can help you project a positive internet image.

Social Media Tips for College Students

college student checking his social media account

The thought of college admissions and social media checks may make you feel nervous or stressed. You might even wonder if you should delete your accounts until you hear back from all the colleges you’ve applied to, but your online presence may help you get accepted if you follow these simple tips.

You can prepare your social media for colleges with these social media do’s:

  • Do follow relevant colleges: You can indicate your interest in the schools you’re applying to by following their social media accounts. You can also like, comment on, or share posts related to your preferred major and relevant extracurricular activities.
  • Do post about your accomplishments: You can highlight your achievements and talents by posting about them on social media. This content may give admissions officers new insights into your character and help them learn about additional accomplishments you don’t mention in your applications.
  • Do share your social life: Admissions staff know prospective students have lives outside of academics, so you can post photos and videos showing you socializing with your friends, but you should only share content that reflects positively on you and your peers.
  • Do review your past posts to ensure they’re appropriate: You never know how far back an admissions officer may scroll through your accounts. It’s important to review all the content you’ve posted thoroughly to make sure you don’t have any inappropriate or embarrassing content buried deep in your profile.
  • Do share photos of your travel experiences. Being cultured and worldly can reflect positively on you as a prospective college student. It also shows your curious and adventurous side.
  • Do share about your college prep experiences. Making posts about taking your ACT or SAT exams, trying to determine your college major, or visiting college campuses can demonstrate your seriousness about the process.
  • Do share photos of any volunteer work you do. Colleges appreciate students who are community-minded and driven to make the world a better place.
  • Do share your hobbies and interests. Well-rounded students are attractive to college admissions boards. Do you paint or play music? Enjoy rock climbing or going for hikes? Are you athletic or enjoy going to museums? Posting about it can help those who view your profile get to know you better.
  • Do proofread your posts. Today, simple grammar mistakes probably won’t reflect negatively, but it is important to make sure that your text is easily understandable and reflects on you positively.

These strategies can increase the likelihood that your social media accounts will positively influence colleges’ admissions decisions.

Additionally, you can ensure that you put your best foot forward online by avoiding these social media don’ts:

  • Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your family or professors to see. You can determine if it’s a good idea to share certain content by asking yourself, would I care if my younger sibling, grandmother, or future professor saw this? If the answer is yes, avoid posting the material online. This rule applies to what you post on other people’s pages too. Your comments can be traced back to you.
  • Don’t post content that could be misinterpreted as cruel, insensitive, or offensive. Sometimes, posts that may seem like harmless fun to one person can appear inappropriate to someone else. Avoid potential misunderstandings by deleting content that could be taken out of context or offend a stranger. This includes writing profanity and other potentially offensive language.
  • Don’t contradict your applications. It’s important to make sure that your social media content fits the portrait you’ve painted of yourself in your applications. For example, if you want to be an engineering major, it’s a good idea to avoid posting that you hate math.
  • Don’t like or follow posts and pages that may reflect poorly on you. Even if you don’t repost the content, your likes and follows paint a picture of who you are, so make sure that it is a positive image.

By implementing these do’s and don’t’s, you can ensure your social media profiles enrich your college applications instead of detracting from them.

Using Social Media to Your Advantage When Applying for College

Social media and colleges might not seem like a great combination, but your accounts may be an asset when applying to institutions. It’s beneficial to use social media to reinforce the information that you’ve already shared in your college applications.

Your posts can emphasize your achievements, passions, and skills. For example, if your college essays discuss how much you’ve learned by joining the basketball team, you can share videos of yourself making a game-winning shot. Likewise, if you list volunteer activities on your resume, you can post about projects you’ve coordinated.

Editorial Listing ShortCode:

Additionally, you can improve admissions officers’ perceptions of you by posting professional content. It’s important to only post appropriate photographs of yourself and use proper grammar and spelling when writing posts. These easy strategies will make it easier for admissions staff to picture you as an excellent student at their institution.

How Does Social Media Affect College Admissions?

student preparing for college admissions

According to a recent survey conducted by Kaplan, approximately one in four admissions officers have checked prospective students’ social media accounts. The type of content you post can determine if your social media helps or hinders your college applications.

Professional posts that showcase your accomplishments and positive content about your passions may improve a college’s perception of you. By contrast, colleges may be less likely to admit you if your social media contains red flags, such as hateful language.

Social Media and College Admissions

college students preparing for admissions

Colleges and social media may seem like two separate worlds, but your online presence could be a factor when institutions make admissions decisions.

You can ensure your social media accounts portray you positively by only sharing inoffensive content and focusing on creating posts that highlight your personality, interests, values, and accomplishments.

If you’re ready to learn more about the application process, you can take the first step by researching accredited colleges and universities today.

Ready to start your journey?
Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.