Social Media and Undergraduate College Admissions

Dear Student: Don’t Get Mad at Your Parents.

If you’re reading this we bet that someone in your family just had a tough conversation that made you mad: they talked to you about your social media presence. More likely than not, someone told you that you needed to either edit or take down your account completely. We get it—it’s annoying being told what to do. And it’s even more annoying being asked to take down something that you've worked hard on.

Social media is the 2018 way of communicating with others—with your friends, the world, and beyond. Unfortunately, that includes communication with colleges. You might not see it that way, but we are very sure when we say that colleges will indeed find you on social media, which is not good. If you’re like, “OK, but what if I just make it private? Isn’t that fine?” Our answer is simple: “No.” Don’t get mad at us. Or do—we actually don’t care, because all we care about is you getting into college. Here’s what we have to say about you and social media. Read it, consider it, and if you know what’s good for you, take it seriously.

Delete your accounts. No presence is the best presence.

We know it sounds harsh, but it’s true. Colleges will find your accounts, no matter how secretive you think you are being. Do you think that Harvard doesn’t have a finsta they use to follow people who are private? They’re Harvard. They have a finsta. And they will locate your profile. That’s not good.

Colleges don’t want to accept you.

In fact, they are looking for literally any excuse to throw you in the “Reject” pile. This fall, tens of millions of students will apply to and colleges in the United States. That’s a lot of applicants, and there aren’t nearly that many spots available. Also, colleges gain prestige based on their acceptance rate and how small of a number theirs is—it’s actually in their interest to have you apply and then reject you because it helps their numbers. It's also super overwhelming to have 35,000 applicants for 1,000 spots. They're looking for ANY reason to reject you. Do you really want your Instagram to be the reason they don’t take your application seriously? Seems like a really silly reason to us. You’ve worked so hard. Don’t get in your own way.

No, making your profile private won’t help.

We're repeating this for those in the back: making your profile private is not going to keep colleges from finding you. We repeat: making your instagram private is not a solution. We live in an age where social media revenge acts and cyber bullying are the norm, and screenshots are the only ammo the perpetrators need. We’ve unfortunately seen firsthand how even students who make their profiles private can be targeted in a way that is harmful to their college admissions outcome. Additionally, there have been so many studies done on how false senses of security actually results in riskier behaviors. In our opinion, making your profile private is exactly that: a false sense of security.

This is a crucial part of your application strategy.

In fact, social media is not exempt from your application profile when you have a social media presence. It’s not a way to “escape” the stresses of college applications. Quite the opposite. Think of it as being a part of your application—would you be okay with each and every image on your social media profile being printed and added into your application for review? Because that’s what you’re doing when you keep an active social media presence. We believe that taking your social media presence into account (and deleting it) is a crucial part of our strategy that optimizes for acceptances.

You can technically do whatever you want once you get that acceptance.

We say technically because we find that this break from social media often results in students committing their time to more effective and inspiring tasks or hobbies—and they like those newfound habits. That might sound too optimistic, but we’ve seen it happen. We’ve also found that this conversation around social media with our students leads to a bigger one about what you really want on the internet about you. It’s important to think about. But yes, technically, once you’ve been admitted, you are no longer our responsibility and you can restart your Instagram and Snapchat. But we’ve found that these are the best considerations to have before posting: would I want this photo hand-delivered to my grandma? Would I want this photo on the cover of the New York Times? If your answer is no to either, we’d say don’t post it.

There are no exceptions (basically).

We really mean everything we’ve said above. You should delete all of your accounts. In the very rare case where you might have an emotional breakdown by deleting your Instagram, and we will say we’ve had students who simply refuse (against our advice), some students keep their Instagrams up but our rule is that the content must be supremely boring. So boring, in fact, that no person would ever want to continue scrolling through your account because it’s filled with family photos and photographs of your ice cream. We don’t know what the point is in having an Instagram if it’s boring, but if that’s your jam, then that’s your jam.

So again, don’t get mad at your parents. Get mad at us, sure. We don't care. Unfortunately, we know that we’re right because we’ve been doing this for a while. You probably didn’t want to know everything that we threw out to you above, but you are indeed the wiser for it. It’s just not worth getting rejected from a school because of some silly photo that thought could never be used against you. It will. Pass along this wisdom to your friends and please hear us when we say: delete your Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else you have. These profiles aren't impressive or important no matter how witty the captions or what filter you put on the picture. 

Let us know if you have any questions. We’re happy to talk through any and all of the above with you, your parents, or any combination of people who want to have a chat about this topic.