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Applying to college? Think before you post

By Lee Bierer
Lee Bierer
Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte.

Can students’ social media presence influence their chances in the college admissions process? Hundreds of articles have been written to alert students that colleges are researching applicants online as part of the application process.

Kaplan Test Prep surveyed 381 admissions officers this year and found that 31 percent of them check out social media sites when evaluating applicants. This is the highest number Kaplan has received since initiating this research in 2008.

Most parents have hammered home the importance of cleaning up the “digital DNA” with their own children, and yet students continue to post compromising photos and questionable tweets.

Careerbuilder (www.careerbuilder.com) research determined that 37 percent of employers check out Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter and that 1 in 3 job applicants are “fired before hired” because of what they’ve posted online – half due to provocative or inappropriate photos and 45 percent due to drinking or drug use.

Apparently young people aren’t as aware of the consequences of what they’re sharing on social media as we thought.

So you might think the right response to all this is to eliminate all involvement in social media, to wipe clean the Facebook page, kill the Twitter account, no Snapchats, etc. But colleges now say that this “stealth” activity looks like the student is trying to hide something. Colleges expect students to have some social media presence, and if they can’t find anything, they may become suspicious.

You can make social media work in your favor in the college admissions process.

This is a new concept. While the alarm bells keep ringing telling students and parents to beware of what you post, I see opportunity. For the savvy student, Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets can be a way to add personality and color to what may otherwise be a bland application.

Photos of family or community service activities, events attended with friends, awards received, travels to interesting places can all help bring students to life and enhance their appeal.

It’s important for students to be proactive in managing their online image.

Editor’s note. An earlier version of this column that stated an NYU student had her acceptance revoked after tweeting that she planned to transfer schools was incorrect. The school said the incident never occurred.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte; www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com
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