On October 25th, Kaplan Test Prep released the results of a survey from over 150 business schools in the United States. While the survey only interviewed business schools, the implications are relevant to all college and graduate school applicants.
With regard to social media, the results very clearly indicate that an applicant’s social media profile is becoming more and more a part of the application process. Here are some particularly important stats:
• 35% of admissions officers say they visit applicants’ social media accounts (up from 22% in 2011) to acquaint themselves with an applicant in an informal way.
• Of those who said they visited social media sites, 33% say they do it “often.”
• Social media accounts have negatively impacted an applicant half the time (up from 14% in 2011), and have had a positive impact the other half (48% – the question wasn’t asked in 2011).
• Some of the information that negatively impacted applicants included misaligned goals, racism, and unpleasant imagery.
• Applicants were helped by evidence of volunteer work, writing samples, and an overall positive impression of the candidate from hobbies and ambitions.
• 61% of those surveyed agreed with the statement, “What students post on their social media pages is in the public sphere, so it’s ‘fair game’ for us to use to help make admissions decisions.”
So what does this mean for you? It means that before you apply, you need to do a serious audit of ALL of your social media accounts. Don’t leave a single one out, even if you think that you only use Pinterest for collecting cute ideas for knitting socks, or Instagram for posting pictures of your dog. At some point you may have posted, liked, or commented on something inappropriate.
Once you have done the audit yourself, enlist the help of someone you trust implicitly (parent, family friend, colleague, professor – essentially anyone you know has your best interests at heart) to check through your accounts as well.
When you are confident that your accounts look good, it is time for you to focus on how to use social media going forward. Even if you think your settings are private and others won’t be able to see your content, act as if what you post is public. Consider the following:
Would what you are about to post make your favorite teacher proud?
What about your boss who you so respect?
How would your beloved grandmother feel if she saw it?
If you think the response would be negative, don’t post it. On the flip side, if you have accomplishments, extracurriculars, or other positive information to share, continue to do so! Whether you realize it or not, social media is a reflection of your personal brand, and will continue to be as you move forward in school and with your career. Treat it with care.
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• Leadership in Admissions, a free guide
• Can You Get Accepted After Doing Something Stupid?
• Your Past Doesn’t Define You, a podcast episode