How Social Networking Sites Can Help or Hurt the College Admissions Process

Personalized pages on Facebook, MySpace and twitter can help or hurt your chances of getting into college. It’s up to you. Does the content you post reflect on you positively or negatively?

Rule #1: Personalized networking pages are a great way to express yourself and to showcase your active life through personal messages, photos and friend posts. But when you are applying to colleges you must remember that admissions representatives will have access to your pages and that your active lifestyle must remain rated “PG.” It is not appropriate to post pictures of yourself or friends in any compromising circumstances including pictures with alcohol, illegal drugs or sexual acts. Any pictures that may show a poor judge of character should not be displayed.

Rule #2: It is also not appropriate to post foul language that would offend a possible admissions representative reading through your profile. Ask yourself, would your teacher, counselor or your parents approve of what you’re posting? If you’re not sure, leave it off.

Rule #3: Be aware of the comments you write about your favorite movies, books, music, celebrities, athletes, quotes, etc. Even offhand or “casual” quips can raise questions about your character.

How to turn a negative into a positive: Now, even with all the warnings above, this is still YOUR social networking page so make it yours—just accentuate the positive. Instead of inappropriate pictures put ones of you and your friends at a birthday party or practicing with your band or taking part in a food drive. Think of it as a way to show your strengths and your uniqueness—always from a positive side.

Instead of listing favorite quotes about how hard life can be, list a favorite quote about the importance of positive thinking or team work. I like the Ziggy quote “You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.” Just remember to list favorites that are truthful but not offensive and post positive messages throughout the day on your page and to your friends.

Your friends’ network: Another important aspect of keeping your networking page appropriate is speaking to your friends who you have listed on your page. Explain your situation and expectations and ask that they respect your page and not post any foul pictures or language and ask them to please keep their pages clean as well, since if you are listed as friends your pages will be linked. If your friends refuse or cannot in turn monitor what others write on their sites, remove them as a friend from your page, at least for the time being. Just take a moment and explain the situation to your friends and they will understand.

Be careful what you write about college visits: An important part of social networking sites is updating your posts with special events in your life; and some of those events will most likely include college visits. It is very important to be careful with the information you write on your networking page about a college visit.

It is perfectly acceptable to write a post explaining that you went on the visit and that you enjoyed your time and are seriously considering the college if given an acceptance letter. It is not OK to bash the school you just visited, regardless of whether you want an acceptance letter or not. If you badmouth a college you just visited, you can be sure if the admissions representative checks your page you will be receiving a rejection letter.

“So what?” you might think. “I didn’t want to go to that school anyway.” Consider what other admissions representatives might think. The admissions rep of the school you really want to attend may read your post and question your integrity. Either way you lose out!

Also, don’t list the colleges you are applying to or your first-choice school. Keep that information private. That kind of information can negatively impact your chances of gaining an acceptance letter—or perhaps lower your chances for financial aid (because if a college knows you’re a lock to attend if invited, they have less incentive to try to “lure” you with merit aid).

Finally, in a more positive light, if you keep your networking page packed with all of the positive things you do—from after-school clubs to hobbies to favorite books, and happy vacation and friend pictures—your admissions representative will see you as a happy, well-rounded student who they would want on their campus. Social networking sites are powerful tools. Use them to your advantage!

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Ian R. Welham, Certified College Planning Advisor  -  Tel: 973.467.0101