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Can Social Media Impact College Admission?

Social media hasn’t been with us for incredibly long, and our society is still adjusting to it. News organizations only recently began to take Twitter seriously as a source of breaking news and opinions. As we get used to how social media impacts our lives, we need to be careful about how our use of social media affects others’ perceptions of us.

It’s easy to get in the habit of sharing everything on Facebook and Instagram. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people losing their jobs over posting an embarrassing story or inappropriate comment — you need to be aware of how social media is affecting your professional and academic prospects.

According to Kaplan Test Prep, college admissions officers will seek out and scrutinize the social media accounts of prospective students they are evaluating. Students should expect to be scrutinized and should use social media to their advantage. Social media is now fair game for college admissions, and it should be part of the way you present yourself.

Growing Interest in Social Media

In preparing its annual report on the state of college admissions, Kaplan surveyed 400 admissions officers on their practices when reviewing applicants. Thirty-five percent reported that they visited the social media accounts of applicants. This has increased from ten percent in 2008. These numbers show no sign of reverting. The trend is clear: more admissions officers are using social media as a key part of their evaluation process.

The good news is that the numbers indicate students are becoming more strategic in how they use social media. In 2013, 30 percent of admissions officers reported that they found something that negatively impacted the applicant’s chances. That number decreased to 14 percent in 2014, indicating that students are presenting themselves in a more professional way.

When Kaplan asked 500 high school students whether or not their social network accounts were referenced during the college admissions process, 58 percent said “yes.” Many reported actively using social media for self-promotion, hoping it would raise their profile and help with their college admissions.

The College Experience

Surveys report that the average student’s college experience isn’t directly related to how big or selective their college is. The National Survey of Student Engagement polled more than 355,000 undergraduate students from 622 universities. The survey found that less competitive colleges and universities scored just as well as more high-profile institutions when it comes to student engagement and experience with faculty.

The findings undermine the perception that more selective and competitive universities provide a more fulfilling educational experience. Less selective colleges often offer an experience with qualified faculty that is equal, or better, than more competitive schools. Higher education is changing — students who are having the best experience are not always who you might expect.

Online Education Is Booming

The increasing focus on students’ social media accounts reflects the embrace of the online world by colleges and universities. More education is happening online than ever before. Online education is projected to be an over one hundred billion dollar industry by 2015. Traditional universities realize that students are attracted by the flexibility and cost savings offered by online education. The institutions know they must adapt to this reality or face negative effects.

Many of the top U.S. schools have begun offering massive open online courses or MOOCs. The MOOC phenomenon began in 2011, with some courses boasting enrollments in the hundreds of thousands. Many students already have a degree and a job and are attracted by the opportunity to upgrade their skills or change direction. The New York Times reports that almost all MOOCs come from the world’s top universities, reflecting a shift by the major players toward online education.

As more education is taking place online, students are becoming smarter about how they present themselves online. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr aren’t just a part of their personal lives, but they are a reflection of their professional and academic lives as well. College admissions are increasingly taking social media into account as they make their evaluations — many students have started using this to their advantage.

There’s no sign that the embrace of the online world by colleges will slow down any time soon. Students should expect more technology in the classroom, more online courses, and more of their online life to become part of their academic life. For educational programs that make the most of online technology, check out the programs at Vista College.

CC Photo by Jason Howle

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