Appreciating Social Media's Positive Potential in College Admissions Decisions

The college application cycle for the Class of 2023 is in full swing with early decision deadlines looming and high school seniors scrambling to perfect their essays and perhaps considering taking one more shot at increasing their SAT scores.

College counselors guide their students through this stressful process often through rote practices reinforced by an over-reliance on Naviance and decades of experience. Attentive parents have raised their children to make certain they have checked off all the boxes they think their children will need to impress their dream schools.

The college admissions landscape has materially changed over the years yet the student support network of parents and school counselors have generally failed to make corresponding adjustments to their practices, perceptions, and priorities.

Parents will approach college admissions for their children using the same metrics they experienced in their own earlier life. This is a boon for test preparation services where the customer is parents not students. These parents typically have a high willingness to pay and often want in-person tutoring. Globally, the test prep market is expected to grow $7.56 billion between 2016, when it was valued at $24.57 billion, and 2021, when it is expected to reach $32.13 billion.

If parents are assumptively willing to blindly pay big bucks for test preparation services why would these experts tell them that standardized test scores are not as crucial to college admissions decisions as they once were? The same can be said for essay writing experts and pre-packaged “service” excursions. You get the picture. Stuffing a student with tutors, test preparation, essay writing experts have arguably made the college admissions process unnecessarily complex and stressful.

The digital age is permitting colleges to take a more holistic and pragmatic approach to student evaluations.

Pay attention to the growing number of test-optional colleges and universities. Read the admissions pages of a college website as they will typically tell you exactly what that college is looking for in a student. Read The Turning the Tide report. Uncomplicate the process.

Also consider the numerous surveys showing how colleges and graduate schools are increasingly willing to look at the social media profiles of students to assess their character, leadership, service, initiative, and involvement. Institutions of higher learning are trying to build engaged and safe student communities so personal attributes are often more important than grades and test scores when making these holistic decisions.

When used properly by college-bound students, social media can help them craft an essay of their life telling ther unique stories in rich, persuasive and meaningful ways. When used properly by college-bound students, social media and digital portfolios can help them stand-out from other qualified applicants in the eyes of admissions officers. When used properly by college-bound students, social media can also help them demonstrate interest in attending a particular college. Social media storytelling is not just one more element to add to an already convulated process. Let’s try to rationalize the process by prioritizing the critical elements of today’s college admissions process.

For many parents and advisors, student social media is wrongly viewed as a nuisance that can only take-away from a tutored test score or adult-crafted essay. All they can think about is the reaction when an admissions officer sees a student drinking a beer on Instagram. This view is short-sighted and simply wrong.

When parents see how a well-crafted LinkedIn profile can bring their child’s experiences and challenges to life, they realize that their kids are so much more than grades and test scores. They realize that social media is a powerful storytelling platform. They see the social media’s positive potential in the college admissions process!

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