Am I special? What distinguishes me from my peers? Do I stand out from the crowd in some vital way?
These questions are not symptoms of narcissism. They’re legitimate questions to ask yourself if you aspire to attend an Ivy League school or similarly elite institution. The world’s best students compete for admission to these schools but only a small fraction of them succeed. Even applicants with near-perfect academic credentials need to distinguish themselves by means of appealing “soft” qualities so they can prevail against competitors with equal credentials. You’ll need one or more tiebreakers, and you need to make sure that admissions offices understand them.
Colleges use many methods to sift applicants to make the fine distinctions necessary to select those who will be admitted. In this context, your social media presence has significant value in your campaign for admission. But social media is a double-edged sword. It can help your cause or, if used improperly, jeopardize it.
In this post, let’s consider how to create a positive impact with your social media and Internet presence. In a future post, we’ll present some guidelines on how to avoid harm to your chances as a result of your use of social media.
According to Kaplan Test Prep’s most recent survey of college admissions officers, “Over a third of college admissions officers have visited an applicant’s social media page to learn more about them.” Lately, however, social media searches by admissions officers have gone beyond Google searches. Kaplan observes, “As social media has evolved from early versions of MySpace and Facebook to a broad ecosystem of platforms and apps that are a daily part of millions of young people’s lives worldwide, we’re seeing greater acceptance of social media use in the college admissions process.”
As it has matured and grown, social media has become part of the vetting process of applicants who have made the initial academic cut. This is the stage in the admissions process where your potential to help achieve the diversity goals of a school becomes important.
You should use social media proactively, not just passively so as to be prepared for searches by admissions offices. Social media opens opportunities that have not been available in the past. You should leave no stone unturned in the intensely competitive admissions milieu.
For marketing purposes, colleges seek to engage potential applicants through their Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Snapchat accounts. A savvy applicant will make these same media part of their marketing program. This can be accomplished by; a) taking the initiative by creating a positive impression via social media, and b) demonstrating interest in targeted schools.
Colleges monitor their own social media feedback and review their “mentions”. If you have an optimized social media presence, you can freely interact with colleges knowing that if someone at the college clicks on one of your profiles to learn about you, they’ll find only information that furthers your cause.
Colleges also use social media’s data mining capability via the search function to find students who may be able to help them meet a need that has been identified. This helps admissions offices to recruit students who satisfy deficiencies in their goal of achieving diversity. In order to be “found” through such a search, you should construct a pervasive presence across several social media platforms.
Below are our recommendations on social media and other Internet platforms:
- LinkedIn: People think of LinkedIn as the site for professionals of all sorts to network with peers and employers in their field. They profile themselves by describing what they’ve done. LinkedIn for high school students, however, is about what you plan to do rather than what you’ve done. Most colleges, including all of the Ivies, are on LinkedIn. They are there to encourage the engagement of potential applicants with their faculty, alumni, current students, and administration. In your LinkedIn profile, include your activities, memberships, AP classes, electives and any other information that will focus attention on your interests and talents. Initiate relationships in the LinkedIn communities of targeted colleges.
- Facebook: High school students now favor other platforms over Facebook to chat with their peers. However, admissions offices remain active on Facebook. Facebook features state-of-the-art search capabilities. Colleges rely on it to learn about you and to perhaps gain insight into your character. They use both Facebook and LinkedIn to search for desirable recruits. With social chat moving to Instagram and Snapchat, Facebook has become the optimal platform for applicants to dedicate to their talents and accomplishments. Conduct casual peer-to-peer social communications elsewhere, and take advantage of Facebook to present your story.
- Twitter: Twitter has becomes a popular and powerful method for networking. If managed well, a Twitter feed will increase in influence and popularity over time. You may be using Twitter now to message your friends and to share Instagrams. If so, create a second Twitter account that has a user ID that is your full name or is derived from your name. Then write a profile for yourself that you’d want an admissions officer to read. Follow your target colleges and professors at those colleges. Search for current students and faculty at your target schools who share your academic interests. Review tweets and interact frequently with the following that you’ve established.
- Google+: You’ll come as close as you can to managing your Google search results by completing your Google+ profile. The “About” page affords an opportunity to tell your story yourself. Google+ will become your personalized top ranked listing for a search of your name on Google.
- Blog: Creating a blog on a free blogging platform while you’re in high school is an easy way to create searchable content that shows your passions, activities, and community service on a contemporaneous basis. Because it shows extraordinary initiative, can make a positive impression on admissions officers.
Your IvySelect college admissions counselor is an expert in assisting you to identify and develop the special talents, or “hooks”, that will set you apart in the competition for admission to the most elite institutions. We don’t set up or maintain your social media platforms. What we do is advise you on your marketing message so that you can potentially draw attention to your hooks through your social media presence and reflect a positive image consistent with all other aspects of the profile that you present to target colleges, including interviews, essays, and applications.