Parent Primer - Social Media and College Admissions

So you think you know what it takes for your child to get into an Ivy League or comparable school?

There’s the perfect 4.0 (or 5.0?) GPA, a 1600 on the SATs, 36 on each ACT subject test, an endless list of AP and honors classes, and a personal statement stuffed with extracurricular activities such as multiple club presidencies, multiple sport captainships, and that week-long summer excursion to South America to work with needy orphans.

With hard work and sacrifice comes the ultimate prize (and a ticket to hallowed ivy halls), being named class valedictorian. 

Well, this line of reasoning is no longer true.

We could fill our class twice over with valedictorians.
— Drew Gilpin Faust

Drew Gilpin Faust is an American historian and was the 28th President of Harvard University, the first woman to serve in that role (2007 - 2018). 

Back in 2014, Faust offered her most important piece of advice to parents who want to raise future Harvard students. It also applies to many of America’s other top schools.

Make your children interesting!
— Drew Gilpin Faust

Almost every school worth attending will be looking beyond grades and test scores. 

In 2018, the eight Ivy League schools accepted a combined total of 21,000 freshmen selected from a pool of 307,000 applicants. The numbers are not much different at Ivy League comparable schools (Stanford, Duke, MIT, etc.). 

While not all applicants will meet an institutions' minimum eligibility requirements, a conservative estimate is that 70% of the applications received are worthy of serious consideration. College application data collection techniques have not kept pace with the growth in applications received. There is simply not enough granularity within the applicant data collected for college admissions counselors to properly vet such a large pool of similarly qualified applicants.

Standardized test scores do not predict a student’s success at college. Test-optional and holistic admissions review an applicant’s whole academic and lived experience. Many schools are placing an increasing emphasis on personal qualities that will lead students to succeed in college. This renewed focus includes examining “curiosity, love of learning, perseverance, and grit” in addition to the standard “grades, rigor, curriculum, and other qualitative data.”

After years of lamenting the difficulty of gaining acceptance into elite colleges, many college admissions experts have now come to embrace social media as a way for students to take control of their digital narrative. The college admissions process has become more complex. Schools must contend with selecting (and filling) an incoming class that is talented, diverse (culturally, intellectually, athletically, and economically) while also measuring applicants' ability to pay, genuine interest in enrolling, legacy history, character and fit to withstand the rigors of college life, and probably several other factors beyond an outsider's comprehension. 

For many college applicants and their parents, this analysis points to a painfully obvious conclusion. We live in a digital age and many high school students today document much of their lives online. Whether colleges admit to it or not, one can subsume that in order to fill the void of actionable data delivered by the Common App, colleges admissions counselors are increasingly referring to social media sites to gain insight into their applicant pool.

According to the most recent Kaplan Test Prep survey of 350 admissions officers, 68 percent of college officials said that social media is "fair game" in their college admissions decisions. 

Once we understand the modern metrics that are driving admissions decisions, we can understand why the traditional college application no longer delivers the information schools need to make informed decisions. The Common Application and even the Coalition College Application are rooted in an outdated framework. Colleges are forced to look at applicants beyond the scope of the application to assess them in accordance with their current business needs.

Student social media delivers this missing and actionable information to admissions, enrollment, and financial offices in effective ways. Great grades and academic rigor will continue to be the primary metric for college admissions but a student's chances for admission to their dream school will greatly improve once they understand how to utilize social media to demonstrate interest, convey their good character, and showcase the skills colleges are looking for to set themselves apart from other qualified applicants.

In other words, make them interesting!

Learn more by taking our FREE social media course for parents! Use discount code PARENTSFREE at checkout. Your credit card will neither be billed nor stored.

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