Social Media Strategies for College Bound Students

When concerned independent educational consultants, college advisors, and parents search for meaningful social media advice for their college-bound students what they find is often vast, varied, and contradictory.

There are "experts" recommending taking social media out of the mix altogether. Advocates of this position argue that teen social media activities can only lead to bad outcomes. They often cite last year's well-publicized decision by Harvard to revoke the admissions of ten students as Exhibit A. The problem with this strategy is that it ignores the inherent value of delivering digital leadership education to today's youth and uses bad outcomes associated with uninformed social media use to justify its draconian approach.

Other "experts" take a more moderate approach and encourage students to clean their social media before applying to colleges. This advice, while well-meaning, works to limit what students will potentially have to show to colleges. According to a recent study from the University of California, teens work very hard to create a favorable online image that makes them appear interesting, well-liked and attractive to their friends and peers.

When adults start advising teens about what to post online, whether more positive or less negative, teens will move their curated activities away from their unwelcomed watchful eyes. Because of this, it should not be surprising that younger users are fleeing Facebook, their parents' favorite social network, at a surprising pace.

We believe it is important for teens to have a safe space for their social media activities with friends and peers. There are three rules associated with this privilege. Teens should instinctively understand that nothing they post will ever disappear, they will never be anonymous, and anyone in the world with an interest in finding what they've posted can. With these rules firmly in place, teens should be free to have fun by posting whatever they want their friends to see.

As hard as teens work to create a favorable digital presence for their friends, they need to be taught how to apply that same regimen for colleges and employers. This is a crucial point. As much as teens need a safe space for engaging with and impressing their friends, they also need a safe space to produce content designed to inform and engage with a different audience, whether that audience is their future college or employer. There can be no crossover or commingling of these content streams. If teens prefer to use Instagram and Snapchat with friends then introducing them to LinkedIn and Twitter for college and career activities becomes an easier sell.

When they have established their safe social media space for future activities and are armed with the necessary know-how and skills to build an informative digital portfolio for college, their creativity and nativist digital skills come into play. Students are not confined by the rigid rules of resume etiquette nor are they intimidated by social media engagement. Once they understand the need for creating content that impresses an audience beyond their friends and peers, they will utilize social media to tell their story in wonderful and powerful ways.

All we need to do is lead them to water. 

Alan KatzmanComment