Do college admission offices pay attention to my social media posts? The short answer is “yes”; thinking otherwise is either wishful thinking or, at the risk of sounding critical, uninformed.
College admission offices were early adopters of social media; today essentially 100% of colleges use social media for marketing purposes. Move away from marketing to visiting applicants’ social networking pages for the application review process however, and you find that even among these early adopters, 80% have no official guidelines or policies as to how or when to do so and 74% of those have no plans to create them. Only 14% of colleges in total have a no page visit policy. (Kaplan College Survey)
You’d think that admissions officers don’t have time to look at social media. More than a third of top US News ranked universities surveyed by Kaplan indicated that they viewed applicant social media pages. This is up from 10% in 2008. When they do look, 16% of applications were negatively impacted. An improvement from just two years ago when 35% of pages viewed had a negative impact, but in raw numbers the negative impact continues to rise – just a smaller percentage of a larger number of viewed social media pages.
Colleges look at social media pages largely to verify what an application claims with a goal of protecting the university from embarrassment, particularly for scholarships or highly competitive admissions. An Ivy Dean of Admissions admitted that they do not have the luxury of time to check all applicants’ social media, but that “friends of the university” regularly provide Admissions with the heads up that causes them to take a look, and that 7% of rescinded admissions had a social media component. Though I expect the numbers of offers rescinded are few, I find that significant.
Students are comfortable with all of this page viewing. 58% of 500 high school students surveyed by second 2014 Kaplan study feel their social networking pages are “fair game” for college admissions officers to look at; and 35% of these felt their pages would benefit their application - only 3% felt it would hurt their application. (Kaplan Student Survey) People beyond admissions officers who are viewing a student’s social media pages include writers of recommendations, summer internship or other employers, and alumni interviewers.
It makes sense for a student to not simply clean up their social image but use that image to express their “best you". Think about what posts say about you. If a post takes a lot of explaining, it probably isn’t a great post. For practical guidance, take a look at some pictures of what to delete (here) and what to post (here).
Finally, a good perspective on social media can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBASXK3y8so