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Social Media and College Admissions

Updated: Jun 14

With the Gaza-related campus protests of the past few months, parent questions and concerns about social media and social media postings are popular again. With a number of schools reporting rescinded admissions related to George Floyd and racism a few years ago, and schools like UCLA and UNC Chapel Hill mentioned as monitoring student social media in a 2022 Dallas Morning News article, those concerns seem to have some merit.


Parental concern about their high school student’s online activity is logical, though most colleges are less than clear as to how much they look at applicant social media postings. Many suggest that, given the short time they have to analyze each applicant, there simply isn’t time to examine social media commentary.


Our conversations lead us to believe that, while many schools avoid publicly stating their admissions policies with regard to social media due to privacy concerns, the actions taken by individual regional representatives can be telling. Unofficially, many admissions representatives observe postings to learn more about a student and their character. Our belief is that a holistic admissions process that values student personality and campus "fit" is going to have an interest in social media postings. And in a world where Pew Research Center surveys point to increasing social media use by high schools students, we believe colleges will increasingly look at applicant posts. As a former Columbia admissions representative put it, "social media is fair game."


Kaplan and AACRAO provide clear evidence of university interest in applicant social media. In their most recent survey of admissions officers, Kaplan found that 67% of respondents said that what is posted can impact admissions decisions, and 28% said they actively looked at student social media. Importantly, both numbers highlight an increasing trend in the survey over the past several years. AACRAO’s 2017 survey found that, while only one in ten colleges have a formal social media monitoring policy, 25% of representatives "regularly and routinely" monitor applicant social media accounts. Specific colleges that have highlighted rescinding offers or caring about social media postings are The College of Charleston, Colgate, Cornell, Harvard, Marquette, The University of Florida, The University of Richmond and Pitzer.


We believe it is important that applicants think about their internet presence and the image it portrays. Rather than looking at student social media as purely a risk, families should view it as a way to highlight interests and values that may align with the specific traits different colleges care about in their admissions process. While we help families with this, some of this information can be gathered simply by visiting college websites.


The summer is a great time for students to de-risk their social media presence and start to use their online presence as a tool to highlight the strengths of their resume to their target colleges with.


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