Social Media: The New Game Changer for College Applicants?

The numbers for the Class of 2018 are in and they are more frightening than ever.

Getting into an elite college these days seems to carry the same odds as winning the lottery.

Stanford and Harvard just weighed in at under 6% while almost all Ivies now accept under 10% of all applicants. This selectivity is not limited to Ivy League schools either as Duke, MIT, Berkeley, University of Chicago and other elite schools continue to reject far more qualified applicants than ever before.

The essential lesson for high school juniors and their parents who are preparing for the Fall's application season is this: "Admissions directors at these institutions say that most of the students they turn down are such strong candidates that many are indistinguishable from those who get in."

Indistinguishable from those who get in? This seriously begs the question of how acceptance decisions are made at these institutions. We all realize that given the number of qualified applicants, it is virtually impossible to make viable objective distinctions based only on GPAs, SAT/ACT scores, activities, essays and recommendations that all look the same. College acceptance decisions are arguably more subjective than ever before. An Ivy League admissions officer has even been quoted as saying: "Some 70 percent of kids who apply are qualified to come to school here, and we have space for one in ten. We can be as choosy as we like. It almost always comes down to whether or not you’re a likable person."

Enter social media. Let's drop the overly hyped fears of how colleges only use social media to reject qualified applicants. That notion is simply absurd. Instead, let's focus on how a thoughtful, responsible social media presence can help applicants stand out in a crowded field. Rather than sophomoric posts to impress their friends, high school students should be using social media platforms to build a presence that impresses college admissions officers. These nurtured public views can demonstrate their skills, interests and activities better than any college essay or personal statement. Authentic social media profiles and blogs documenting an applicant's activities, interests and academic successes tell a story in words and images that can and will set them apart from their other highly talented peers.

Social media is here to stay and will continue to influence character assessments made by colleges, scholarship committees and employers. Learning how to build a responsible online presence has become an essential life skill. It is time to let your social media work for you rather than against you. 

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Alan Katzman1 Comment