Social Media and College Admissions

Anything you say can and will be held against you.

It’s a brave new world. Your parents never faced anything like this.

Thanks to social media, colleges are getting a better look inside an applicant’s life than ever before. Back in 2008, a poll of admissions officers at the 500 most selective schools found that 10% were already checking Facebook and MySpace to investigate prospective students.

You can bet that number has increased in the three years since – and is most likely encompassing more and more pages. Your Flickr pics, Twitter feed, and FourSquare check-ins are all up for grabs.

Worse, that access is hurting more than it helps. A quarter of students came out looking better thanks to social media… while 38% wound up looking worse.

What does this mean for an applicant?

What They See

On public profiles viewable to the world… assume the world is viewing them. A good rule of thumb: If your grandmother would be offended, you probably aren’t impressing anyone in the admissions office.

That can break down into three categories. Nothing illegal, nothing salacious, and nothing offensive.

Any of the three might not doom your admission… but you certainly aren’t helping it. You’re raising a red flag, which could prompt more digging – the admissions equivalent of an audit.

It’s simple really. Keep your public persona clean. Don’t stain it with any negative press.

Because, at this stage of the game, that’s the way you need to think about this. Your Twitter feed is doubling as your press agent – and what you say there will reflect on you.

That doesn’t mean you need to become wooden and vanilla – that kind of reaction could hurt you as well. Admissions officers will usually be excited to see a prospect with some personality.

But make sure you draw appropriate lines, and follow them.

What They Don’t See

If you’ve got parts of your life that you want to share but don’t want seen by admissions officers, there are a few workarounds.

You can choose who can view certain photos on sites like Facebook. You can require your approval before allowing someone to see your Twitter feed. You can make your blog invite-only.

And, for even better anonymity, you can set up accounts using different email addresses – addresses unknown by your admissions officers.

If you need an ugly vent about a break-up, for instance… or need to complain about academic workload… do it from an anonymous source. What colleges don’t know you said can’t hurt you.

All things being equal, however, it’s best to keep your online life on the straight-and-narrow – you don’t want it affecting your admissions chances.

To your successful college pursuit,

Scott Weingold

Related Article:

Do Colleges Check Facebook?

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1 Comment

CathyMarch 19th, 2011 at 10:45 am

thanks for all you advice Scott! It is great for our kids to see this even though we as parents can tell them, it is nice to have reiforcement…

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.