Optimize Your Social Media Before Engaging With Colleges and Universities

Social media engagement with colleges and universities has become an essential part of "demonstrating interest" in a particular school. Schools have established their presence on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and other social media platforms for this precise purpose - engagement. They encourage applicants to socially engage with them and several have even implemented software to help them track and measure social interactions with individual applicants.

Before commencing any social media activities with colleges and universities, college bound high school students should first prep and optimize their social media presence to avoid the following outcome.

Stanford University is active on Instagram and recently posted a casual photo of a professor highlighting that professor's interests, activities and accomplishments. A high school student (whose name and appearance have been redacted) commented on the post: "Visiting Stanford today."

In and of itself, this is a perfectly innocent and acceptable way to socially engage with a university and demonstrate interest at the same time.

It is also important to remember that someone is monitoring Stanford's Instagram feed and very likely clicked on this student's Instagram handle to learn more about him.

This is just part of what they saw:

This student's Instagram account is filled with racist images and connotations. Although the accompanying commentary is not hateful, it is disrespectful, juvenile and reflects a total lack of basic judgment. There is no compelling reason why Stanford would invite this person to become part of their student population. In other words, this student fumbled an opportunity to make a strong impression upon on the Stanford community. Instead, his digital DNA has been exposed to them in a negative manner.

The important takeaway from this discusion is not to avoid interacting with schools on social media but to realize that these interactions convey more information than simply the message itself. Social interactions hand deliver a student's complete social media history with each and every interaction. For this reason, college bound high school students should be working on optimizing and prepping their social media before engaging with colleges and universities, their students, alumni, faculty and staff on social media.

When college representatives view a thoughtful, respectful, intelligent and robust digital presence they will take positive notice. Teenagers need to understand how the storytelling power of social media can work to their advantage and then commence building an authentic and positive digital presence for certain review by college admissions, scholarship and internship committees.

Conclusion: Prep and optimize your social media presence first and then socially engage freely with colleges and universities to set yourself apart from other qualified applicants.