Can Social Media Hurt My College Chances?

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Gelyna Price
Gelyna Price

Our collaborative team of content writers and researchers stay up-to-date on the latest news to help you ace your applications. We hope you enjoy the blog.

If you’re anything like the typical user, your social media feeds are probably full of fun. It could be chatter with friends and family, or just pictures of you having all sorts of fun. As long as you know that the people viewing your social media are just the contacts you have on there, this is probably fine (and expected). But what happens when college admissions officers look at your profiles? For that matter, do these admissions officers take your social media presence into account when making admissions decisions? And can social media hurt my student’s college chances?

More and more, the answer to that last question is a resounding “yes.” According to a Kaplan survey from 2015, 40% of college admissions officers look at applicants’ social media, and it’s easy to imagine the number has only gone up since then.

What information do they find?

People in the college admissions office know that your college application is a highly polished glimpse at a couple of facets of who you are, but your accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on can reveal much more about who you really are in day-to-day life. (Snapchat, with its disappearing messages and pictures, probably never sounded so appealing!)

Our advice

With that said, here are some tips and bits of advice for what to avoid in your social media accounts to make sure you don’t hurt your chances of getting into your dream school.

Don’t say anything bad about specific schools.

You definitely don’t want to be seen badmouthing a university (imagine how admissions officers would react if they saw you posting something like, “Can’t believe I even bothered applying to a dumb school like <college>… oh well, at least I’ll get in for sure!”).

Less intuitively, don’t go overboard in posting good things about schools either.

Remember that demonstrated interest is a big deal, so if admissions people from Harvard see that you have your heart set on going to Yale, your demonstrated interest in Harvard may take a hit.

Get rid of anything offensive or overly controversial.

While you may have strong feelings on a particular political issue, engaging in flame wars on your wall doesn’t paint you (or anyone involved!) in a good light. Outright offensive content is, of course, a bad idea in general — but even more so when you’re trying to convince colleges to let you in.

Delete or hide any pictures that reflect you having the wrong kinds of fun.

Among your friend group, maybe underage drinking is considered the norm, and pictures of hardcore partying may be all over the social media of everyone you hang out with. Remember, though, that schools don’t care if you look cool to your peers; they care whether you’re mature and responsible. With that said, having some (tame) pictures with your friends is great — it shows that you have a social life, and that’s a good thing!

If all this sounds too complicated, remember you can just set your social media accounts to private. It won’t let colleges see any of the good things about you that they might otherwise; but it also saves you the trouble of carefully curating each post and picture across all of your accounts. In the end, social media sometimes can hurt college chances… if you don’t take a few proactive steps.

Questions? Let us know!