By Dean Tsouvalas
If Facebook were a country, it would be the third most populated in the world, ahead of the United States. So with the ever-growing popularity of Facebook, it seems like every college/university, college admissions counselor, college applicant – and their mom–has a Facebook page. A Kaplan survey of admissions counselors from some of the top colleges and universities found that 80 percent visited potential students’ online profiles during their recruiting process.
In our experience talking to hundreds of college admissions counselors, we know they are actively trying to engage prospective students online. And in at least one case an admissions counselor told us they rejected a potential student based on their social networking profile.
What should students and parents be aware of? How can these platforms be used to make your application stand out? I spoke to students, parents and college admissions counselors to find out.
1. Get it on….line.
Follow your prospective school’s Twitter feeds, “like” their Facebook fan page, and subscribe to any other social media channels can give you incredibly insightful information. Through social media you can find out what issues matter (sports scores, campus beautification – even cafeteria menus) and incorporate that knowledge into your essays and interviews to show that you’ve done your research and know exactly why the school is right for you.
2. Video made the college star.
Make a video on why you want to go to the school, a highlight reel of yourself engaged in your extra-curricular, get additional recommendations on camera – post it on YouTube, and tag the school, then include a link to the video in your application. Now you can stand out from the plethora of students applying. Tufts leveraged social media when they invited students to submit an optional one-minute YouTube video along with their application.
3. Blog your way in.
A blog is a fantastic platform for displaying writing skills and a knowledge of your declared/target major. Your blog can showcase photos of your volunteerism, your creative side via art or music projects, that time you made it into the local paper for saving a cat in a tree/catching the winning touchdown/winning a pie eating contest. Your blog can show your dynamic personality in ways that a word-count-restricted essay and GPA cannot, and can give you a leg up on other students. Of course, don’t forget to give links to your blog on your application, inviting the admissions officers to view it, and comment.
4. Privacy, please!
It’s been said before, but can’t be said enough – if you put it online, anyone can find it. No one’s saying you can’t have fun on social networks – but when you do, make sure that it is all private! Here’s how to do it on a few of the major sites:
- On Facebook, visit “Privacy Settings” by clicking on “Account” and set privacy settings at the highest level you’re comfortable with.
- On Twitter, visit the “Edit my Profile” page (on the “Profile page” tab), then scroll to the bottom and make sure that “Protect my Tweets” is selected. You’ll have to manually approve anyone that wants to view your Tweets.
- On YouTube, make any videos that you wouldn’t want everyone to see “Private” when you upload them.
The point is it is okay to be online doing your thing on social networks, just be smart and savvy about it, and use your skills to your advantage. Seize the opportunity to sell yourself and your assets to the schools you want to go to, and make yourself shine, online.