Teens, Social Media, College Admissions & Life

It is no secret that smartphones have become today's teen social hub.

Smartphones are where social plans are made, changed, and made again; where popularity is measured; and where all types of virtual social connections are being made. Teens display their lives in high definition for their friends to see and ultimately for the world to view. Their world operates from the palm of their hands and it is always open for business. 

Many social media platforms have been developed to attract teens and cater to their needs and curiosities:

Instagram’s photo sharing app is now the most popular teen social media platform and has spawned the selfie generation.

Snapchat’s ephemeral promise of ephemerality is attracting teens in record numbers and fueling the rise of sexting.

Yik Yak’s false pretense of anonymity has attracted students in droves and is now a coward's haven for threats, racism, sexism, and cyberbullying.

Tumblr’s massive size gives false comfort to teens who choose to share their innermost feelings with total strangers in what seems like relative obscurity.

Tinder and Kik facilitate virtual teen hookups, all from the comfort and safety of their own bedrooms.

The list of teen platforms goes on as do the stories of teen misuse and abuse.

The essential lesson for teens is that every posted word, photo, video, tag, like, tweet, follow and share can build an indelible and discoverable public record of behavior, attitude, belief and temperament. Without proper guidance and direction, teens will continue to act out online and build a less than desirable digital footprint for their future selves. 

Colleges, athletic departments, and scholarship committees are now routinely looking at social media to assess the character, credibility, creativity and commitment of applicants. 

The general misconception is that colleges use social media to find reasons to reject qualified applicants. While this may often be the final outcome, it is not their motivation. Social media provides colleges with a free and accessible database to discover, assess and recruit qualified candidates.

Recruiters at today's hyper-selective colleges thirst for more meaningful information than the one-dimensional snapshots offered by GPAs, SATs, and essays. As we can glean from last month's Ivy League acceptance rates for the Class of 2019, these traditional metrics fail to deliver the needed separation when tens of thousands of highly qualified applicants are vying for a limited number of available seats.

Serious college bound teens need to get comfortable with the idea of posting their accomplishments, extracurricular activities, community service, and special talents on social media. By doing so, they are helping to create a nurtured transcript of their life and a living resume for the world to see.

Social media is not going away and learning how to use it to properly showcase professional, academic and personal accomplishments is an imperative life skill for the 21st century. 

Alan Katzman is the founder and CEO of Social Assurity LLC, the leading social media advisory service for admissions, career and life.