Kids and social media. It makes you cringe sometimes, right? Long for the ‘good ole days’ when we weren’t so connected and technology wasn’t such a huge part of our lives?
Well it’s time to face it, Mom and Dad, technology and social media are here to stay.
And believe it or not, kids and social media is actually an asset these days, especially when it comes to getting into college. Admissions officers are often recent college grads and are digital natives, comfortable navigating social media networks and searching for the profiles of potential students. The best thing kids can do is have a social platform specifically for colleges where they share content that tells the story they want to share. Parents also need to impress upon kids three truths for social media:
- Tell them they’re never anonymous on social media. Ever.
- The posts will never disappear.
- Everything they’ve ever posted digitally is discoverable. Alias’s never work for long.
But before we do a deep dive into these rules and what kids can do to create a social profile to tell the story they want to tell, you may be wondering…
Are Colleges Really Looking at Social Media?
According to Inside Higher Ed, “admissions officials at more than two-thirds of colleges (68 percent) say it’s ‘fair game’ for them to review applicants’ social media profiles on sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to help them decide who gets in.”
And if you’re considering a private, liberal arts school, social media is even more important, since those schools are especially concerned about their new students fitting into their culture on campus.
According to Social Assurity founder, Alan Katzman, the 22% of those colleges who do monitor social media say they look at social media regularly and routinely (those 22% consisting primarily of private, liberal arts schools).
Harvard made the news in June 2018 when it actually revoked the acceptance of 10 admitted applicants after is was discovered that they had participated in a private Facebook group “called “Harvard memes for horny bourgeois teens.” The group reportedly included jokes about the Holocaust and abusing children, as well as insulting remarks about members of various racial and ethnic groups.”
Naturally, we hope our kids aren’t participating in any groups like that online.
But even just images that they’ve posted to entertain their friends can have negative ramifications on their chances of getting into college if they give an admissions officer the wrong impression.
Using Social Media as an Asset
“Only post things you would want your grandmother to see, because colleges and employers are looking.”
Have you ever been guilty of saying that, before? Or have you heard it?
It’s incredibly common advice.
The problem is that by telling your kid this, you’re just encouraging them to be sneakier in how they handle social media. They’ll set up a “finsta,” fake Instagram, account that you may never see… but future employers or college admissions officers may.
The three facts kids should know for social media are:
- They’re never anonymous on social media. Ever.
- Their posts will never disappear.
- Everything they’re ever posted digitally is discoverable.
Create Separate Social Media Channels for Future Audiences
The key to using social media as an asset is to create separate social media channels for future audiences, such as admissions officers or future employers.
Then use that channel to tell a story.
For example, if you’re an aspiring fashion student, you might want to send them a link to your Instagram profile where you have a lot of your fashion designs. Or if you’re interested in pursuing architecture, you might want to create an Instagram profile where you show different designs you find of interest.
And then actually include those links in your application.
If you’re providing the links, it’s almost guaranteed that the admissions officer will look, potentially giving you a leg up on the competition.
Your social profiles can make your character more obvious, highlight your interests and demonstrate collaboration. It gives colleges a more well-rounded idea of who you are.
Let Google Do the Heavy Lifting
Have you ever Googled yourself?
I’m sure you have, who hasn’t?
But what pops up when your name appears? Information about you that you would want a college admissions officer to see?
You can actually create positive content that will be more likely to rank in Google, telling the story you want to tell.
If you’re not sure how to do this, companies like Social Assurity can provide you and your student with the guidance you need.
One of the best platforms for creating specifically for future audiences is LinkedIn. It’s the best platform for highlighting accomplishments. You can add blog content, portfolios, and, of course, outbound links to your other content.
LinkedIn actually will tell you who is looking at your profile, which gives you the opportunity to reach out and engage with those people.
Clean House Periodically
It’s a good idea for kids to periodically do some online “spring cleaning”. Go through and remove content that doesn’t fit the personal brand they want to convey to potential employers or colleges. Also consider evaluating their privacy settings.
Even if kids are using a “finsta” account, it’s important to note that colleges will follow up on tips about bad behavior online. So while it’s best to delete it entirely, at the very least, consider removing everything that doesn’t represent the story you want to tell.
Final Thoughts on Kids and Social Media
Social Media doesn’t have to be the big, bad wolf. In fact, it can give kids a huge competitive advantage, especially as more and more colleges drop the test requirements (no SAT or ACT scores required).
The big things kids can do is:
- Create Separate Social Media Channels for Future Audiences (Profiles that tell the story they want told)
- Let Google Do the Heavy Lifting
- Clean House Periodically
What do you think? Do your kids have separate accounts for specific audiences? We would love to hear from you. Drop us a comment below!