Social media reaches way beyond your personal world to create an expansive, public, online presence.
It can be a spontaneous, fun time: posting party pics, connecting with students across the globe, stating political opinions, or voicing your inner most thoughts—across a variety of platforms in multiple mediums (photos, words, gestures, emojis, videos). With social media, you choose which aspects of yourself to share, and these carefully selected bits of information, come together to create a very personal, digital footprint.
But take note, if preparing for college and working on your college application, there will be a new set of eyes landing on your social media pages. Know that college admissions representatives are online and active. While these admission folks may not launch a full-scale investigation into your digital life, they may extend a glance to glean an impression or help them choose between candidates. This is a reality. The school’s goal is to understand who you are so they can predict your fit to their institution. Accept it. Understanding the current condition of your online presence is a good place to start.
Here are four steps to start early and develop a social presence that will impress college admission representatives:
1. Review and edit
Google yourself. Review your online presence and ask, “How do I appear? Is this a true reflection of who I am?” This is an important question to ask yourself as you prepare to apply to college. Now is the time to edit and remove content—create healthy boundaries between public and private space, and become aware of how to manage your online content.
Learning how to control information is a skill you will continue to sharpen as you grow in your professional experience. For now, learn how to reign it in and remove any questionable content before you tackle your college apps. What is problematic content? Silly photos, offensive language, poorly written blogs, outdated material of any kind, and anything that you wouldn’t want your family to see. In addition, be sure to check your privacy settings and make sure your email address is updated and appropriate.
2. Develop new material
Our online content creates a first impression. Facebook posts, Instagram pages, or Twitter messages are full of details that reveal a behind-the-scenes look into your world. Now is the time to use the various platforms to make a positive statement! Highlight your service event at school, post a group photo of you and your friends sitting together at lunch, upload a short video of your musical performance, or post photos of the project in Robotics club.
Use social media to your advantage and develop material that reveals your interests and values. Be consistent across platforms by posting content that is true to you. Be authentic in your expression, reveal yourself creatively. It sounds like the college essay, right?! Actually, the exercise is very similar: choose aspects of your background, experience, interests, leadership positions, and reveal yourself to others. As far as the content, the choice is yours, but make sure your online story is compelling by highlighting your strengths and connecting to others with a positive message.
3. Connect to colleges
With your digital presence reviewed, revised and polished, you are ready to use social media to reach out to colleges. Online forums can be a great way to learn first-hand information about specific academic programs or garner insight into the complexities of campus life. Students can join groups of admitted students even before they graduate and begin to chat about the transition to college. Remember to write with precision—grammar and punctuation intact.
4. Submit multimedia
Colleges are now using digital media in the application process. There are a few schools such as Goucher College and George Mason University that allow for the submission of a personal video as part of the application. A digital media platform called Zeemee now offers students a way to submit videos and photos via a profile page, revealing information about themselves and their activities. Approximately two hundred schools are now requesting a Zeemee page in the application.
Colleges are seeing that social media offers a human connection and lends a distinctive life force. Grades, scores, activities, and an essay, together with social media platforms, offers a full view from afar. All that remains is the interview (if possible) to complete full engagement as an applicant!
As you continue to post stories about your life online, remember that staying in tune with the balance of public verses private, as well as the relevancy of various social platforms, is critical for presenting your best self.
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