Positive Uses of Social Networks for College Applications

By Patricia Gorden Neill - March 26th, 2013

We’ve discussed the ways that something negative in your social media profile could sabotage your college application. Chances are, you’ll have to consider and protect your online reputation for the rest of your life. A decade or so ago, no one would have thought to Google the name of a regular private person, as opposed to a movie star or sports figure. If they had, they would have found nothing because not much information was online in those days. That’s all changed. Most young people have used Facebook for years as a means to keep in touch with family and friends. Type anyone’s name into Google these days and you’re likely to find pictures, posts, rants and tweets. Building and maintaining your online reputation should begin in high school or in college at the latest.

While you’re looking at your social media accounts for potential information or pictures that could bomb your college application, be thinking of ways to use your online presence to boost your chances at being accepted into the college of your choice. Presenting yourself in a positive light isn’t difficult, assuming that you do interesting, positive things, like a hobby or volunteering. It does require a certain focused nuance in how you post pictures, tweets and posts, however. While you want to present all the things that you do in a way that would attract a college admission counselor, you don’t want to make yourself look too goody goody. You want to avoid looking like a perfect human being doing wonderful things. Admissions personnel are wary of an unlikely level of perfection. What they want to see is a real person revealing her passions, doing things she loves to do.

Make Yourself Look Good

Begin by putting up pictures and posts that show you helping to build the skateboard rink or at the pre-school where you volunteer or whatever your hobby is. Post pictures of you and your friends walking to raise money for kids in Africa or any number of social causes. If you have a beloved pet, a pix or two of you and the pup or pony can’t hurt. Travel pictures are great, and if you travel, consider beginning a blog about it as well. One thing colleges consider when looking at applicants is what each student could contribute to the college community. If you’re involved in a hobby or sports or performing arts, you will bring that talent and experience with you to college, joining with other students on campus who are active in the same ways. A picture of you teaching some developmentally disabled kids how to play baseball tells more about you as a person than any mere description of your volunteer work. That’s the kind of thing college admissions folks hope to find in incoming students.

Show Them You’re Interested

Colleges also attempt to judge a student’s level of interest in their school. Has a student visited the college or interviewed with the admissions office or an alumnus of the school? If Student A is accepted, will she go ahead and enroll in the freshman class? You’d be surprised at the number of students who get accepted to a college, but then go to another college.

Occasionally that happens when a student gets a better financial aid offer from another school. Or that college was actually a safety college and Student B got into her reach college. So colleges try to discern how many of the students who are accepted will actually enroll. This is the reason colleges have waitlists. If a number of students end up not enrolling, the college can then alert the students on the waitlist that they can now enroll in freshman class.

Use your social media accounts to connect to the college. “Like” the college’s Facebook page, follow the college’s twitter account. If the school has a college community forum, bookmark it and read it. See if you can also post to the forum to begin conversations with current students, faculty and administrators at the college. Express your curiosity about the college’s new curriculum program. The more you can connect with people at the college, the more the college will regard you when it comes time to make admission decisions. Let them know you’re interested.

Show Off Your Trophies

If you’ve won any awards, honors or trophies, don’t be shy, have someone take a picture of you and the prize you won for the best short story. Post your unique photos of the canoe trip you did with your cousin, setting up camp far from home. If the wrestling team won, put up the pictures of you and your team. If you have something to be proud of, share it on your social media. It isn’t bragging if you do it right. The college you’re applying to would like to know about your successes and other positive achievements such as awards, prizes and blue ribbons.

In summary, creating a positive online profile takes some thought and effort, but it will pay off in the applications and admissions game. Keep in mind that future employers will also check social media to discover more about job seekers. Getting into the habit of not only cleaning up your online presence, but promoting a positive image of yourself is a good idea. Start taking care of things in high school and you’ll be far ahead of the crowd.

About the Author

Patricia Gorden NeillPatricia Gorden Neill edited medical and scholarly journals for over 20 years in the ivy-covered halls of the University of Rochester. She is a freelance writer, often covering higher education and the concerns of college age students, and is regularly published on a variety of websites.