Use Social Media to Control Your Story in College Admissions

by Carol Barash, PhD, founder and CEO, Story To College, and author of Write Out Loud

There are horror stories of students who lose their chances at a college—or are denied even after admission—based on their misconduct on social media. Articles abound on how to scrub your social media presence in preparation for college admissions.

But how do you use your social media presence for good? Here are a few of the things we’ve learned as we’ve taught over 12,000 students to have real, authentic conversations with universities in the admissions process.

First, stalk your colleges. Like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and set up Google Alerts. Extra points for finding them on younger networks as well: look for them on Instagram, Tumblr, and Snapchat. What the colleges are talking about—and how they talk—will give you great insight into the kind of community they have and are committed to, and whether they’re a right fit for you.

Additionally, staying up to date on their news will prepare you to have an authentic conversation with the college. You’ll be prepared to have interesting conversations in your interviews—and on social media. Engage your target colleges! Retweet them and comment on their posts. Ask questions. Tweet and share their news: from sports victories to science breakthroughs or exciting student-run developments on campus. Tag them.

This insider knowledge prepares you to explain specifically how you will add to the college’s campus in your supplement essays.

Finally, use your social media presence to establish a voice. Share content that reveals your passions and your engagement with the world. That might mean letting your parents tag the video of your piano recital, but social media are more than a showcase for your achievements. Look for news pieces that reflect your values and concerns. Share them and comment on them. Colleges are looking for students who will contribute actively to their campus—show your commitment through writing, and use your online presence to reinforce the qualities you want to present in your application.

Remember: social media is not all smiley faces and roses. It’s about conversations and relationships. Bonus round: if you find yourself questioning something a college says or does, can you respond in a way that keeps them in dialogue? That’s really what college is all about; show colleges what type of student and citizen you are online.

Looking for advice on how to write application essays that reveal your authentic story with colleges? Check out Story2, our dynamic new online platform that coaches students through the process of finding topics and drafting successful application essays.

Carol Barash, PhD, founder and CEO of Story To College and author of Write Out Loud, has taught over 12,500 students around the world–from first-generation college students to the children of bankers and CEOs–how to tell their stories and write essays that win admission and scholarships at selective colleges.