Grad school admissions officers might well be checking out your social media accounts and forming opinions about you based on your profile and content. Will what they see help you or hurt you?
The most recent survey of this growing trend – conducted in 2021 by Kaplan Test Prep – involved admissions officers from 247 top schools around the country. The results clearly indicate that your social media profile can absolutely influence your standing in the application process. Here are some particularly important stats:
- The survey revealed that 27% of admissions officers said they visited applicants’ social media accounts, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube, to learn more about them.
- Of those who said they check social media sites, 6% claimed they do so “often.”
- For 57% of the admissions officers surveyed, social media account content has had a negative influence on their view of an applicant, and for 38%, a positive influence.
- A “near record” 66% of admissions officers considered viewing social media accounts “fair game,” while 34% said it was “an invasion of privacy and shouldn’t be done.”
So what does this mean for you? It means that before you apply, you should seriously consider doing an audit of ALL your social media accounts. Don’t leave a single one out, even if you think you’ve used Pinterest only for collecting cute ideas for knitting socks or Instagram for posting pictures of your dog. At some point, you might have posted, liked, or commented on something inappropriate.
Five Steps to Optimizing Your Online Presence
Here’s how to do a thorough and thoughtful social media audit:
1. Google yourself.
Yes, this might seem obvious, but it’s where admissions officers likely start as well. Once you see where you have a presence and where you don’t, you can continue on to the following steps.
2. Clean up your act.
Your application package could be flawless, but if adcoms see your Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, or Facebook littered with inappropriate pictures or videos, or your Twitter feed overflowing with obscenities, obvious trolling, harsh or bullying comments, or other offensive content, your 760 GMAT score or 3.9 GPA might be worthless.
Delete all questionable content. After all, you can’t assume that anything online will really remain private.
3. Get social.
Social media has its risks, but it also is a must in today’s world, and you want to have the basics covered. Any tech-savvy, modern applicant should have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile. Other accounts from other platforms such as those listed in step #2 are totally acceptable, though not needed professionally.
4. Make yourself easy to find.
You can assume that many adcom members will look at your social media presence, so why not optimize the search results for your name? This will make it easy for them to find you and help ensure that what they find enhances rather than harms your chances of admission. First, you can buy your domain name – pick a URL with your name in it, and use that site to aggregate all your social media profiles in one place. You can also use About.Me, WordPress, or Tumblr to consolidate your social presence and make yourself easily searchable. Also, by claiming vanity URLs for your social profiles (setting up /yourname at the end of a link), you can make profile sharing easier and further optimize your online presence.
5. Make what’s found reflect well on you.
What you post doesn’t have to be boring or overly professional. You can have passions and other interests. You can even have political opinions or religious beliefs. That’s all fine. Even good.
Your posts should be thoughtful and presented with respect for people who think differently from you. Social media might not be the most appropriate venue to share political or religious views, but if the views you share are so important to you that you feel compelled to be public about them, then make sure they are presented in a way that isn’t offensive.
If you have a few posts, pics, tweets, or status updates that don’t reflect well on you and that you can’t get rid of, post new, positive material to push the old stuff further down in your posting history. Maybe you can’t make it disappear, but you can make it less prominent.
As you consider how to engage with social media going forward, even if your settings are private, act as if what you post is public. Ask yourself whether what you want to post is something that will make your favorite college professor proud. Or your boss, whom you so respect. Or your beloved grandmother. If not, don’t post it. 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. It represents You!
Final Thoughts On Social Media And The Grad School Process
Once you have done your audit, enlist the help of someone you trust implicitly (parent, family friend, colleague, professor – essentially anyone you know who has your best interests at heart) to check through your accounts as well. Once you have made any changes suggested by them, you can be confident that you have taken every step possible to present the best version of yourself not only through your application but also through your social media presence.
Create an admissions profile that will impress the adcom! Team up with an Accepted admissions expert who will help you present yourself at your best and get accepted to your dream school.
By Judy Gruen, former Accepted admissions consultant. Judy holds a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University and is the co-author of Accepted’s first full-length book, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools. Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!
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