How Social Media and Personal Branding Impacts College Admissions

Join our insightful webinar, “Understanding the Influence of Social Media and Personal Branding on College Admissions,” as we delve into the pivotal role social media and personal branding play in the college admissions process. Discover how your online presence can impact your college application journey and learn strategies to present your best self.

Admissions expert Lydia Hollon will present:

  • The Digital Footprint: Understand how colleges use social media to assess applicants and gain insights into the significance of your online presence.
  • Building a Positive Online Image: Learn practical tips on crafting and maintaining a positive personal brand that aligns with your college and career aspirations.
  • Privacy Settings and Online Etiquette: Explore the importance of privacy settings, responsible online behavior, and the long-term impact of digital choices.
  • Showcasing Achievements: Uncover ways to leverage social media to highlight your achievements, extracurricular activities, and community involvement in a compelling manner.
  • Impact on Admission Decisions: Gain insights into real-life examples of how social media can influence college admission decisions and understand the dos and don’ts.
  • Parental Guidance: Parents, discover your role in supporting your child’s online presence and learn effective ways to guide them in building a positive digital identity.

By the end of this webinar, you’ll be equipped with valuable knowledge to navigate the intersection of social media, personal branding, and college admissions successfully. Don’t miss this opportunity to ensure your online presence aligns with your academic and professional goals.

Date 02/19/2024
Duration 1:01:03

Webinar Transcription

2024-02-19 – How Social Media and Personal Branding Impacts College Admissions

Hi, everyone, and welcome to tonight’s webinar. My name is Anesha Grant. I’m a senior advisor, CollegeAdvisor, and I will be your moderator today. Today’s webinar is about “How Social Media and Personal Branding Impacts College Admissions.” This is an interesting and new webinar for us, so I’m looking forward to it tonight.

Um, just before we get started, I just want to orient everyone with the webinar timing. So we’ll have a presentation with some tips and advice, and then we will open up the floor to respond to your questions in a live Q and A. On the sidebar, you can find Go ahead and download our slides under the handouts tab, and you can start submitting questions for those who are wondering.

Yes, tonight’s session will be recorded and available on our website tomorrow. Now, let’s meet our presenter, Lydia. Hey, Lydia. How are you doing? I’m good. How are you doing? Great. I’m great. So hi, everyone. My name is Lydia Hollon. I’m excited to be speaking to you all today. I am also a senior advisor at

As well as the co-captain of the essay review team. I’ve been with CollegeAdvisor for about three years now. So it’s been a great experience. And I’m also proud alum of New York university with a bachelor’s in political science and a master of art in teaching. All right. Um, well, before I let you go ahead and get started, we’re going to do a quick poll.

Um, so just let us know what grade level you are in. If you’re eighth grade, ninth grade, if you’re a parent, uh, feel free to go ahead, or a teacher, you can go ahead and select other, you don’t have to submit it for. Your student or on behalf of your while we’re waiting. I normally ask questions about food.

So I’m just wondering what what are you eating for dinner tonight? I feel like we’ve talked about New York food in the past, but or what would you like to have for dinner tonight? So I I’ve gone out to eat multiple times this weekend, so I’d rather talk about what I’m eating. What I already ate because I honestly, I’m probably gonna be eating leftovers for dinner tonight to make up for that.

Um, but I had some really good Korean barbecue yesterday with my husband and it was, it was amazing. I think it’s one of my favorite foods to eat. Oh, I’m jealous that, oh, I haven’t had Korean barbecue in a very long time. That sounds good. Um, all right. Well, thank you for sharing and giving, planting that idea in my head after, after tonight.

All right. Um, so it looks like we’re joined mostly by 10th graders, um, this evening. Um, so thanks y’all for joining us. We hope that this information is helpful as you start getting, thinking about the application process. I will stop talking, hand it over to Lydia and be back a little bit later for our next poll.

All right, so tonight we’re going to be talking about social media and personal branding and college admissions. So I think it would make sense for us to start with just going over the overview of what a personal brand is. So your personal brand is your unique mixture of skills, experiences, personality, and values that you want to share with the world.

So think about all the things that make you you, and if you had to distill that down into a few, like, buzzwords that you would share with someone, that’s kind of your brand. So an example of a brand that we might think of when we’re talking about college admissions, it might be something like, um, social justice focus activists with a specific focus on disability rights or something like that.

So something that defines who you are, What you care about, the skills that you have, the experiences that you have, um, and your personal values and personality, it really helps an admissions officer to understand who you are on a deeper level and allows them, even though they’re only looking at a few documents to go beyond the first impression of what they see and.

understand a deeper message about who you are and what you stand for and what you are going to bring to the table at their university. And a lot of the time that personal brand is something that’s going to be built over time, your actions, the decisions that you make throughout your high school career, and sometimes even earlier than that, and how you portray yourself on various platforms, which sometimes can include social media, um, and how you present yourself online and offline.

to potential colleges or even further down the line to employers. It’s really important. Um, and you want to make sure that you’re developing a personal brand that is authentic to you because as you get older, um, not just talking about colleges, it’s going to be a lot easier for you to convey that personal brand.

If it’s something that’s true to who you are and the things that you’re interested in. I can definitely say in working with students, the things that Major thing that I noticed, especially when I work with seniors who are already at the point of applying to colleges when they’re preparing for interviews, sometimes they really struggle to convey what their personal brand is because so much of the things that they’ve done and the activities they’ve involved themselves in or the things that they say they care about.

is really based on what they think people want to hear, rather than what is authentically them. So you want to make sure that your personal brand is a reflection, at least to some extent, of who you actually are, the things you actually care about, rather than forcing yourself to pursue things that don’t really align with who you are.

Because I think the strongest brands are things that are a real reflection of who you are. Something that just kind of naturally reflected what that person cared about. Um, and it just makes things a lot simpler. So for example, with Steve jobs, he had a really strong personal brand that was centered around innovation and simplicity, and that was really evident.

And the way that he presented himself and presented the products. And that’s why it felt so authentic and resonated with so many people. So you all may not be Steve jobs, although some of you may be the next Steve jobs. Um, that’s a kind of a good example of how you want to make sure that the brand that you present is something that is true to you and a reflection of your balance.

Um, of your values. And that brand can affect the opportunities that you may have because you’re differentiating yourself from your peers. So you want it to be something that reflects how you stand out or how you are different from those who are around you. So there may be, you know, thousands of other students who are applying to Harvard with a 4.0 GPA, right? But you want to make sure that your personal brand is a reflection of what makes you unique. Is it your values? Is it your experiences? Is it the way that you go about solving problems? All those different kinds of things. So just making sure that you’re thinking about what makes you unique.

distinct, um, from the people that are around you. So where in your application do you show your personal brand? Well, the good thing is there are tons of amazing places that you can reflect who you are and what you’re about in your application. I think one of the main places that most people would think of is the essay and personal statement because it allows you to literally tell your story and share what your brand is.

It’s an opportunity for you to share the unique story of who you are, what you care about, what you’re about. Um, and so I really encourage students to weave in their personal brand into the narrative that they tell. Through their essays. Um, so for example, if you were someone who was really passionate about education, let’s say, um, maybe you would tell a story about how when you were younger, you struggled with school because you had ADHD or something like that.

And it was something that, you know, Over time, you realize that there are a lot of other people like you who struggle with something like that, and it made you passionate about advocating for other students, and you joined your school district school advisory board or something like that. But essays are a really great way for you to tell your story and weave in the experiences, your values, your personality, all those things, and tell them who you are in a really clear and concise way.

Another way is through extracurricular activities, because That allows you to back up that personal brand that may be distilled into just like a few words, back up what that actually means and what that actually looks like with evidence. So while your essay may say who you are, and you probably will provide evidence in the essay Your extracurriculars provide real hard evidence of who you are on a more tangible level in the sense that you can provide more depth to what your brand really means.

So showcasing that leadership experience, um, being able to show I’ve been spending X amount of years doing this activity, um, showing that sustained commitment and impact. In a few areas rather than just super official involvement and a lot of different things. And I think that’s the biggest thing to really consider when we’re talking about developing a personal brand as a college applicant is your, your ability to convey a strong personal brand is going to be so much more effective if you’re being intentional about the organizations that you involve yourself in and pursue real, leadership opportunities within them.

It’s hard to tell what someone is about if they do a little bit of everything all the time and there’s no real line that we can draw through all of it. Um, so that’s why a lot of college admissions officers will say that they’re really looking for depth. That’s more meaningful because it says more about what a, who a person is and what they’re about.

If they’re president of this club or vice president of that club, rather than just a regular participant in a bunch of different things, it’s hard to tell what’s most important to them. Um, another thing is letters of recommendation. So, um, students, you should really think about and be intentional about the people that you ask to write your letters of recommendation, because that can also speak to your personal brand.

If you’re someone who has always been really inquisitive and curious and wanted to push the boundaries of how we think about problems or things like that, um, using letters of recommendation can be really helpful, because If you have a teacher, for example, who’s willing to write you a letter of recommendation and can speak to the fact that you were always the person that was asking questions in class, or always pushing the boundaries of what we could learn and things like that, that helps to speak to who you are.

And then the last one, which we’re going to talk about a little bit more as we move on, is online profiles and social media, which is something that can be used in a positive way. I know a lot of the time when we talk about social media and college applications, we always think of it as something that’s a negative and that keeps people from even being able to go to their dream school, but it actually can be a useful tool as a live sort of portfolio of teaching.

Your experiences, the things that you’re interested in, that you care about, your achievements and all that kind of stuff. So don’t think of it as some big, scary, bad thing. It can actually be useful school, useful tool to showcase and back up the things that you say, um, you’re about and who you say you are.

Um, and another thing that’s important to keep in mind is there is a Kaplan survey. Um, just to back up the fact that social media can be a useful tool that says that 36 per. 65 percent of admissions officers in 2019 said that they had visited applicants social media at some point and 65 percent overall said they would consider using social media Or they would consider it to be appropriate to consider in an admissions decision even if they themselves had not used in the past and in contrast only 35 percent of admissions officers said that they did think it’s inappropriate to review a student’s social media.

So just keep that in mind. Even though only 36 percent actually are or have reviewed social media accounts, the majority of them would consider it if they saw it appropriate or they felt like it was something that they had the time to do. So be intentional about the way that you curate your social media.

Have it be a reflection of who you are. And keep in mind that Social media is something that is online. Anyone technically can have access to it because it’s on the internet. So make sure it’s a reflection of who you are and how you want to be seen, um, by the world. So why is a personal brand important?

Um, I think the biggest thing is that it sets you apart in a competitive admissions landscape. So we talked, for example, about if you’re a student applying to a school like Harvard. or Yale or something like that. Those schools are incredibly competitive, right? And having a 4. 0 GPA or, you know, 1500 or higher on the SAT, those things are a dime a dozen, unfortunately, for someone who wants to go to those kinds of schools.

And so having a strong personal brand that shows the kind of person that you are is incredibly important in order to differentiate yourself. Because from the perspective of an admissions officer, We’re not just trying to admit all the students who have a 4. 0 GPA, or all the students who have a perfect SAT score, a perfect ACT score.

They are trying to create an entire community. They’re trying to create a diverse, Class of people, people who are going to push their classmates. Um, maybe it’ll be socially to be more socially aware. They’re trying to create a class that’s going to include people who are going to push the bounds of innovation and science.

They’re trying to recruit people who are going to make their their you know, athletics department stronger. They’re looking for all different kinds of people who are going to enrich their fellow students in so many different ways. So having a personal brand is important because it allows and facilitates the admissions officer to better understand what kinds of value you’re going to be able to contribute to their institution.

And it also just allows you to authentically represent who you are and showcase your interests and values. So it’s a story that you’re able to tell about who you are and what you care about and why you’re making the decision to apply to this institution. And also, thinking longer term outside of just college, it can influence your long term career opportunities.

So I know for me, when I think about when I was applying to college, for example, um, My personal brand was all about social justice and education because those were things that were important to me and I’d been really involved with a lot of different social activism groups at the time. Um, and even now for me, not only do I work with CollegeAdvisors, Senior advisor.

Outside of this, I’m an education consultant and I do work that is centered around those things. It’s, you know, legal consulting, it’s policy consulting, it’s working to make education more equitable and accessible for all students. And so, if you have a really strong personal brand that is rooted in actual experiences that you had and values that you truly hold dear, um, those are things that you can carry with you long beyond.

Just college, which is why I say again, it’s important for you to make sure that your college, um, that your college personal brand that you’re cultivating is one that really reflects who you are. For example, Elon Musk, most of us probably know whether we like him or not. We know what his personal brand is.

It’s about innovation. It’s about risk taking and the fact that his personal brand is so recognizable. That’s what allows him to attract. So many people to work for him. That’s what makes people, you know, drawn to him and drawn to his work So just being aware of who you are and being good at communicating that is critical not just in college But also in life in general.

So how does a strong personal brand play in college admissions? It again is incredibly critical. Um, An example that I give that’s akin to applying for a college is if you’re a politician, for example, running for office. If you’ve ever watched an ad campaign, it’s an election year. Politicians are notorious for having, you know, a campaign slogan that allows them to just have a consistent narrative.

of who they are, what they’re about, and what kind of change they’re going to make. And that’s what motivates people to get behind them. That’s what motivates people to vote for them. And to an extent, you as a person applying for college, you kind of want to have some sort of slogan, even though you’re not going to actually be able to write it down per se, You want someone to walk away almost with a sort of slogan or a certain tagline that they can have about who you are.

You want it to be so obvious from the things that you, you know, have done in terms of extracurriculars, the classes you’ve taken, the things you write about your essay, that they can walk away. And kind of summarize, this is who you are. This is what you’re about. I can see them being in these organizations.

I can see them taking these sorts of classes. I can see them interacting with their classmates in this kind of way. Providing that coherent narrative that someone can really distill after they look at your application packet. Um, and another thing is just as you create that narrative, you want to make sure that you’re high enough, highlighting your unique qualities, the skills that you have, that’s usually going to play a really big role in the brand that you have.

It’s not just going to be necessarily about the things you care about, but also how have you pursued the things that you care about? Have you done that through You know, taking advantage of your creative skill. Have you just shown a lot of leadership skill? Do you serve your community because you’re so passionate about that issue?

Highlighting those specific things and how you made a change and how you pursued your passions, that’s what makes your application memorable. It’s not just saying, Oh, this is what I care about. It’s showing how you do it. And also having a strong brand just demonstrates a certain level of maturity. Cause if you have a lot of self awareness.

about not only who you are, but how you became the person that you are. Um, it shows your ability to reflect. A lot of people, especially when you’re younger, sometimes you lack the ability to understand who am I on a deeper level? Why am I the way that I am? But someone who has a strong application, you’ll notice in their essay that they may be able to pinpoint a specific moment that almost flipped a switch for them when they realized, oh, this is, this is the kind of person I want to be, or oh, this is the thing that I care about the most.

I can speak for myself. Um, when I was applying to colleges, I wrote about how when I was in kindergarten, I got in a fight with a girl because she was being a bully. And I just, It bothered me that she was like that. And I was the kind of person I realized in that moment that I was not going to allow people to be unjust.

I was always going to be the kind of person that would stand up in the face of something that I found to be injustice. And so the fact that I was able to. reflect on that and also see that maybe that wasn’t the best way to resolve that issue, if I could go back in time, but also see that that was a core part of who I am that still holds true to me today, showed maturity and a level of self awareness and reflection that a lot of colleges will look for, regardless of what the actual thing is that you’re passionate about, just being able to pinpoint a specific moment that defined who you are is really important.

All right, we are going to do another quick poll. Um, so let us know where you are in the college application process. If you started, if you’re researching, um, if you are getting materials together in anticipation, I know we have mostly sophomores in the space with us. So I’m assuming a lot of folks are in the process of researching or maybe thinking about their essays.

As we’re waiting for some responses to come in, Lydia, I’m wondering about, um, social media. I know you’re going to dive into this a little bit more, but like handles. So I just, I feel like the names that people come up with, even some of my students, when we were sending out, when we were getting applications ready, I was like, you cannot send this email address that you came up with in like fourth grade.

Um, how much is that a thing that students should be aware of? Or do you think it, you know, it’s kind of negligible, applications aren’t paying that much attention to handles or email addresses? I definitely think with email addresses in particular, it’s important that once you get to senior year and you’re starting to apply for internships, applying for college, to have a professional email address.

And when I say professional email address, that’s generally first name, last name, last name, first name. If that’s already taken, maybe your name is something like Joe Smith. Maybe it’s Joe Smith and then birth year or something like that, you know, or Joe middle initial or middle name Smith. Um, because you, there are so many other Things especially if you’re applying for a elite college or something like that.

There are so many Harder things to bigger hurdles that you have to jump over Don’t let something as simple as your email address be the thing that gets points taken off for you. So I think just have that professional email address, make your life easier. I think that’s the biggest thing. Um, for something like Instagram or Twitter, I would say it’s not quite as important, but as we’ll talk about a little bit later, even if the majority of admissions officers will never Google you or will never seek out your social media, it’s always best to operate under the assumption that someone might eventually find it.

So you don’t want to have something that might be potentially seen as offensive or you know, something that might rub someone the wrong way or just completely just far too unserious or anything like that. If it’s going to ever potentially be linked back to you in any sort of way. So just operate under the assumption that that’s something that someone might see.

Um, and try to keep it professional, even if it’s not your first name and last name, try not to have it be something potentially offensive. Yeah. Yeah. I like that. Yeah. For the people struggling with, you know, very generic first and last names, having to add some numbers in there. Um, okay. All right. So most folks, as I, as I assumed, are, have not started or are researching schools, and so still trying to get, wrap their heads around, um, this college application process.

All right. So we’ll have, again, please feel free to start putting questions in the Q& A whenever you get ready. Uh, we can start organizing questions now if you have them. Um, but I will stop talking and hand it back over to Lydia to finish up her presentation.

All right, so what role does social media specifically play in your personal brand? So, as I talked about a bit earlier, um, social media does not have to be this villain. Social media can actually be a really great tool. So, if we keep in mind that, um, 36 percent of admissions officers, and this was a poll that was done in 2019.

I imagine the percentage is probably even higher now. We’re in 2024. Um, 36 plus percent of admissions officers are potentially reviewing your social media. Think of it as an opportunity to be a digital portfolio of, you know, your achievements, your projects, um, and how you interact with your interest in community.

It can really be a great way for them to just verify what you’re about. So for example, I think the best example of how social media can be used as a portfolio is creating a LinkedIn. I always, when I was a high school teacher, I recommended my students their senior year. Go ahead, open up a LinkedIn, if you’ve ever had any sort of professional experience, even if it was just, you know, working at your local ice skating rink, or movie theater, or something like that.

Get in the habit of using social media as a way to showcase the experiences that you’ve had, as a way to network and find other people who are interested in the same things that you’re interested in, and to level up. the things that you want to advance in. So definitely use, use social media as a showcase.

You can do the same thing for other social media accounts. So let’s say that maybe you use Instagram more than you use LinkedIn. That can be a great way. If you’re doing, for example, community service or activism work, um, having pictures of the work that you’ve been doing in your community, having pictures of the flyers that you put together for different sorts of protests or anything like that.

That can be a great way to just show who you are. So if someone did go to your social media for some reason, there’s already evidence there of the projects you’ve been working on and the achievements that you’ve had that just verifies the stuff that you say. I know that especially in this landscape with college admissions, sometimes there are students whose resumes are just so packed that it almost seems not that believable.

And so sometimes an admissions officer may Google you just to verify that what you’re doing is really real. Um, and it may be something as simple as looking up your name and you said that you played a sport and they may look up your, you know, your name on mile split or something because you said, um, cross country.

that you put that you ran across the country, like use social media, use the internet as a way to verify the things that you say that you have done. Um, but it can also be a reflection of your values and personal ethics. Um, and what matters to you outside of school or your extracurriculars. So I think the biggest thing and a lot of Gen Z And Gen Alpha, I think, already understands this to an extent, is like using, for example, Instagram or Twitter as a way to use their voice to express the things that are important to them in terms of social issues and stuff like that.

People may show, may share, you know, infographics about issues that are going on in the world. And that can be a really great way to just emphasize who you are and what you care about. But I would also say that that can sometimes get people into trouble if the things that they care about or the opinions that they have can also be seen as offensive.

So I would also say that it’s just important to be mindful that if you are sharing your personal values or your personal ethics, that it may be important to think about, the platform that you use to share it, or whether or not you share that on a private account versus a public account, um, because you don’t want anything that you share to be misconstrued as something that could possibly be offensive, um, just because we are in a landscape where sometimes things can be misconstrued in that way, even if they aren’t intended to be.

Um, but a good example how to do this effectively is, for example, Greta Thunberg Um, and how she uses Twitter to advocate for climate change action. So if that were something that was important to you, you know, consistently sharing those kinds of infographics and information on your social media can just emphasize that that really is something that’s important to you.

Um, and like I kind of talked about before, the last bullet is just. Social media can be a platform for you to engage with thought leaders, with organizations and causes that you’re passionate about to enhance your personal brand. So again, if you’re getting to your junior or senior year and you have had some sort of professional experience or even just volunteer experience has been a little bit more extensive, having a LinkedIn can be a great tool.

You would be surprised how many Really influential people are on there and it’s very easy to access them like literally just Sending them requests to connect in a message like hey, I would love to You know chat with you on zoom or if they live in your area. Can I do a quick coffee chat with you? I You know, you go to a school that I would love to attend.

Can I ask you about your experience? Or you work in an industry that I would love to explore. Would it be possible for me to talk about it? Like that is a great thing to do. And if you’re really intentional about curating your brand on social media and reaching out to the right people that can really advance you in a lot of different ways.

So why is building a positive online presence important? I think we already know some of these things. Some of you have probably already, um, heard certain stories about social media being used in positive ways versus backfiring on people. Um, but the most important thing I think is just to think that while most admissions officers, unfortunately, they don’t have as much time as you may think to really just take a ton of time looking at your admissions packet.

Like, yes, they’re going to look at all the materials, but most admissions officers probably are not going to Google you unless there are exceptional circumstances that call for it. And what I mean by that is, it’s probably going to be something that is more reactive than proactive. So, examples that we hear about someone getting their admissions rescinded because of something that they did online, that usually is something that happens because someone raised a flag that, hey, this person’s doing something inappropriate.

It’s not usually an admissions officer just doing a general sweep of every person that they’re considering for admission and automatically checking potential Instagrams, Twitters, LinkedIn, all of that. So while that is true that you’re, you’re, you will not be Googled or your social media will not be tracked down most likely unless there are exceptional circumstances or someone raises a flag that you’re doing something inappropriate online, that doesn’t take away the fact that first impressions in general, not necessarily with college admissions, are often formed online.

So it’s just important that in general, as you enter academic world, as you enter the professional world, that you are making a positive digital footprint. Because it’s really difficult to wipe those things off the internet once they’re there. So if you ever make a tweet that ends up unexpectedly going viral, and maybe you said something that you’re not that proud of, it’s really difficult to get rid of it.

I can say for me, Even though this tweet was not something that was inappropriate, I once tweeted a tweet that went way more viral than I ever could have expected and it ended up getting published on different news sites. And so that’s something that’s going to be linked to my name for the rest of my life.

And then also a positive online presence can reinforce your strengths. It can verify the things that you said. Again, if you have a resume that is absolutely stacked and for some reason someone thinks, oh, I don’t believe that this person did all those things, having those pictures online, you know, having a news article that someone wrote about you or a blog post or anything like that, or just a LinkedIn with the work experience that you’ve had or the volunteer experience you’ve had.

All of that helps to just reinforce the strengths and the achievements that you’ve had, um, and offer a fuller picture of who you are. And then also, hopefully none of you already have negative things that you’re worried about coming up online, but if for some reason you do, um, having a positive online presence and posting positive things about what you’re doing out in the world online, whether it’s Instagram or Twitter, or LinkedIn helps to mitigate the risk of admissions officers encountering other content online.

that maybe doesn’t pin you in this positive light. So putting out as much positive information about what you’re doing helps to create a positive narrative. So if you haven’t created a LinkedIn or anything like that yet, I definitely encourage you to because the sooner you can get started with just kind of building your online footprint and creating a positive story that is in alignment with the person that you want to be.

the better off you are.

And on the flip side, there unfortunately are some negative impacts of social media posts, um, on college admissions. I think the biggest one that we’ve heard about is colleges rescinding offers due to inappropriate or offensive content that they post online. One example I can think of was in 2017, uh, there was like a group chat with recent Harvard, um, admitted Harvard students.

They hadn’t started school yet, but they had been, um, admitted to Harvard and they created a private Facebook group and were sharing just offensive, uh, Messages and images and 10 of the students in that group chat have their offers rescinded because of their behavior in that group chat. Also, there are just different types of content that could be considered harmful like discriminatory remarks, bullying behavior, illegal activities.

I can say personally, when I was in high school, I had one of my classmates, he was accepted to Harvard. And he also had his, um, acceptance rescinded because he had taken pictures of him using, you know, illegal substances online. It got shared by someone with Harvard and he ended up getting his acceptance rescinded.

He had to take a gap year and then he was able to attend after that. But he was not able to attend Harvard for the year that he was actually admitted. He had to take a break. And then also, um, If you are ever going to post something that could potentially be seen as offensive or inappropriate or a negative reflection of an institution or it’s just something that you know this should just be a reflection of you and not your employer, not the institution that you’re applying to or anything like that, make sure that you are using privacy settings On any of your accounts.

So I know, um, I usually recommend, like, Instagram, that that is something that you keep private. Um, you know, anything that you maybe post more personal things, and it may not be something that’s necessarily inappropriate, but I know we talked earlier about, um, You know sharing things that may be controversial like your stance on hot button issues That some people might accept and some people might not if you like being vocal about those things, but you also, you know Care about getting accepted to more elite institutions that may also be as sensitive to how people may perceive those statements Be mindful of the platforms that you post them on keep it private also be Conscious of the people who already follow you because you don’t want, you know, screenshots or anything like that to be shared.

But the best rule of thumb is to just not post anything that could possibly be misconstrued as offensive or insensitive or bullying or anything like that online because there’s always a way they could come back to you. Never assume that because you posted something on your close friends on Instagram or something like that, that it cannot be found.

You never know.

So how do admissions officers use social media to assess a candidate? So I’m sure you’ve heard this buzzword a lot, but admissions decisions are part of a, are a holistic review process. So as I said earlier, 36 percent, and this is in 2019, I imagine the percentages are higher now in 2024, but 36 percent of admissions officers have at some point.

use social media as a part of their admissions decision. They have looked up someone’s social media and considered it. Um, so some admissions officers in your case might look at your social media in order to get a sense of your character or your interests. Um, let’s say that you’re someone that for whatever reason they get a vibe that maybe you’re, you know, Not the person you say you are or that maybe your opinions may not be the best It’s possible that they may look up, you know, your instagram or your twitter or something like that again posting positive things about your You know your achievements having pictures can corroborate your achievements and provide a fuller picture and just help to prove that you are who you say you are and you do the things that you say that you do and Lastly social media can be a background check to just verify You your authenticity and also just verify that you are a person that aligns with their values and their morals.

Colleges really want to avoid bad press where they accidentally admit admitted someone who is incredibly offensive or discriminatory and things like that. So having social media that is squeaky clean just helps to give them peace of mind that you are not going to do something to potentially embarrass them as an institution down the line.

So what are some strategies for using social media to assess, um, or what are some strategies for using social media to showcase your strengths and build a personal brand and enhance your application? So again, You, as yourself, you’re the first person who has a direct influence on what your personal brand is going to be.

The internet is a powerful tool. It can be used for both good things and bad things. The sooner that you get ahead on actively curating your content, curating your posts to reflect the person that you want to be seen as, the better. I know that especially as a generation that is growing up in the age of social media and has had it around for most of you since you have existed, um, you may already understand like, you know, using Instagram to reflect certain aesthetics of your vibe or You know, the kind of person you want your friends to see you as.

But as you get older, you also want your social media to not just reflect how you want your friends to see you, but also how you would want an employer or an admissions officer to see you as well. So it’s an extent, it can be used almost as an extension of your resume or your college application. So posting about your awards or the projects you’ve been working on can really be really be helpful and also using it to showcase extra regular activities.

So let’s say that you’re the president of, I don’t know, let’s say your students, black student union, right? And your school, your club is putting together. some sort of event. Let’s say it’s like a literary night where you all read poems from well known Black poets or something like that. Use your social media to promote those kinds of things.

Use it to advance the work that you’ve been doing, um, and provide, like, it can really literally provide a visual narrative to complement what you’ve been working on while also making your work even more profound by sharing it with more people who may be interested in it. Um, and then just engage thoughtfully with content related to your academic interests and your prospective colleges.

So that’s another way to demonstrate your interest. If you’re following the school’s, you know, social media account, you’re engaging with their content. That can be a great way for you to understand what their values are, what they’re about, and also just show that this is something that you care about.

And then also, you know, maybe networking with people who are working in an industry that you’re interested in, or who have attended a college that you’re interested in applying to. All of that helps to build your personal brand and allows you to demonstrate, you know, engagement and knowledge within the industry.

the field that you’re interested in or the college that you’re hoping to apply to and shows that you’re a proactive person who is taking that extra effort to get involved in a community that you’re interested in. All right. Thank you so much, Lydia, for that. Um, a great presentation. Like I said, I was really excited to hear from you tonight.

And so I hope that our attendees also So, if you found it helpful. Um, so just remember that you can download the slides under the handouts tab and we’re going to move into the live Q& A. The way that it will work is, I will read the questions that you submit through the Q& A tab, paste them into the public chat so that everyone can see them and read them aloud before, sorry, read them aloud to give our panelists an opportunity to answer it.

If you have any questions, Any challenges with the Q& A submission, please just double check that you joined through the webinar custom link in your email and not through our webinar landing page. You may have to log out, log back in. All right. Um, all right, Lydia. So my first question for you,

we kind of, you answered a lot. Um, I guess you spoke to this at, you know, just in your, um, concluding point. So can positive blogging or creating content. be considered in a college application. I’ve had some students who want to drop in links on college applications or put paste things into additional information.

Is that a useful way, um, to kind of bridge together social media and the college application process? Definitely, definitely. Um, I have worked with students myself who have really been great at using social media or blogging as a way to extend the work that they’re already interested in and they shared it in their application.

So, um, definitely. You know, sometimes that was a student. I think one I worked with did a lot of like painting and different kinds of visual art. And so they created a website just as a portfolio of their work. And they just shared the link to it and the additional information. And then another student, um, they had, they were really passionate about technology and they created like, I think, um, it was like a technology review and like technology tips, YouTube.

Um, page. Um, and so he posted like weekly videos about different news and tech in the tech world and how to, you know, keep your information safe online and stuff like that. And so that was actually like a special project that he was able to talk about in depth when he was applying to engineering school.

So don’t think that tech like social media or technology or the internet is just something that can only hinder you. Like you can use it as a way that is very accessible. to show that you have a really deep interest in something by writing weekly blogs or making YouTube videos about what you’re interested in.

It shows dedication. It shows that you, you know, you’re doing research and you’re trying to share that with other people. And that can be a really impressive addition to your application. Yeah, so this next one, you’re going to build on that. Um, are there specific industries or majors where strong online presence is more critical for admission?

So I’m thinking about marketing, communications, folks who want to go to college, but ultimately go back in to working on social media, those types of platforms. Yeah, so I would say that, um, as far as I understand, I don’t think that the admissions world is so far advanced that we’re at a point where we’re asking people straight up, like, what is your Instagram handle?

What is your Twitter handle? Or anything like that? Or how many followers do you have on TikTok? But! I have worked with students like I think maybe two years ago, or maybe it was the last shipments and cycle. Actually, I worked with a student, she had, I think 500, 000 followers on TikTok, and she was applying for a communications degree.

Yeah. And like, that was a valid thing to bring up because you’re 17 and you have 500, 000 followers on TikTok. That’s really cool. No matter what your age is, that is really impressive. But to be able to talk about that and share your story of here’s how I did it. And the fact that I love social media, and I love how it’s able to, you know, use it to promote things that I care about and use it to share stories and connect people like it was a really powerful essay.

So social media, I don’t think is a criteria necessarily that any college is requiring or expecting or looking for from students. But if you got it, definitely flaunt it. And I think it can add a lot of, um, credibility to your application. I love that. Then the one question I was going to ask right after that was, do colleges consider the number of followers or engagement on social media?

So if it’s relevant and you tell them about it, they will, it will probably be considered. Um, okay. The next question I will actually ask you is, Um, how can students use social media to connect with current students or alumni of their desired colleges? I’ve told a lot of my students recently if they have social media to start following the hashtag of schools that they’re interested in Or following the school account Um, how do you think students can use it effectively?

Yeah, so I know one example that I mentioned that I would like to elaborate on that I think is really powerful Is social media LinkedIn, I think is the best way to do like cold connects with anyone, whether you are in high school or whether you are in college, but I would say if you are a high schooler that takes the time to set up a LinkedIn and reach out to someone, you will probably be more successful than any other person.

regular adult who’s just trying to find like a business lead and actually connecting with a person of interest because adults love to help kids and like love to talk to kids about their stories. Like I know as someone who graduated from NYU, the very few times that I’ve gotten contacted by someone who is in high school who is interested in just hearing from me about my experience at NYU or interested in like learning about my professional career and things like that.

I’ve always been more than willing to talk to them just because that shows so much maturity to me and I’m more than willing to help them because a lot of kids or a lot of students. that age, just are not at that point yet. So I’m more than happy to help them in that area. So definitely, I think LinkedIn is probably the best way to just reach out to people because they have all that information about where they went to school and what their achievements are.

I know that a lot of colleges, if you’re admitted to a school, for example, they’ll have like a Facebook group that you can join. That’s at least what they had when I was admitted to college. They, that might be phased out now, too lame for people, but when I was admitted to college. It was Facebook groups that people could join to meet people who had also been admitted, um, to that university.

And I think that can be a great way to connect with people ahead of time and start to figure out, oh, who are some friends that I can meet up with on campus ahead of time and stuff like that. Like you said, following the social media, like the hashtags and stuff like that can be helpful to just figure out who else is interested in the school that I’m going to, who can I connect with who may be also applied there.

But Referring to the incident in 2017 with the Harvard students who had been admitted and were in that Facebook group chat, I believe that that was a subset of students who had joined the Facebook group and then created a smaller group chat and it just got really out of hand. So just also be conscious of the fact that it’s great to connect with students.

Um, online or connect with people who maybe are interested in going to a certain school, but be conscious if you notice that a conversation is starting to go left, or it starts to get really judgmental, or things like that, or bullying, or something like that, try not to engage in those things, and that may be a sign to just exit stage left.

Because you don’t want to be caught up in anything like that. Yeah. I think sometimes we get used to some of the somewhat anonymous nature of social media and that we can kind of say things that it doesn’t always come back to us. Not unlike your, your, your tweet, your tweet from a while ago, but I think with these groups, sometimes you have to remember that like, you know, everybody, or you will meet everybody at face to face at some point within this space.

And so, um, kind of act accordingly and thus. Um, I sorry, I needed to update our one of our slides, um, in order to do this announcement. So before we get back to the questions, if there are any folks who are in the room who are not currently working with us, we know the process can be overwhelming. We know that you all have great questions about how to set yourself up well, uh, for the process.

And we have a team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts who are ready to help you and your family navigate the process through one on one advising sessions. If you’re interested in taking the next step, you can do so by signing up for a free 45 to six minute strategy session.

With an admission specialist on our team by using the QR code that it’s on the screen. During that meeting, we’ll talk about current extracurriculars, talk about your college list, um, and discuss how everything aligns in order to help you build out a stand out. admissions application. All right, so we will leave that QR code up on the screen for anyone who wants to take advantage of it and get back to our questions.

Um, my next question for you, oh, how do colleges view online activism or participation in social causes and social media? I’m thinking about this a lot. I’ve had some students who have been very, very vocal in the past regarding Israel, Palestine, and obviously currently So how do you, will those, will those types of messages or, um, you know, proclamations that happen on social media help or hurt students down the line?

Yeah, so, um, I would definitely say that in general, as someone who, when I applied to college, I was very active politically, offline and online, I had shared very political opinions on my social media. Um, I don’t think I shared any links to my social media, but if they had ever looked at my social media, they would have seen.

you know, strong opinions, um, online. And I think in general, colleges appreciate that, um, but I will also say that there, there are a lot of factors underlying why a certain university or institution may support certain statements and not support others. Um, you know, be quiet about certain things. And so I think generally on the individual level, if you are just a person who, is pro this or anti that or something like that.

I don’t imagine that as long as it’s within the realm of sensibility, like we can understand why a person would go on either way. Like, don’t be racist online. Don’t be, you know, misogynistic online. Those are things that are generally just societally, societally not accepted. But if it’s an issue that there are a lot of people that feel either way, you know, and we can understand why someone might feel either way.

I wouldn’t shy away from it necessarily, but also be mindful that sometimes there are institutions that are invested in having, you know, a certain, you know, opinion, one way or the other. Um, so I can’t say that there are, that is a hundred percent safe, but I can definitely say for me, for example, there are certain stances that I had politically before even being accepted to NYU that I was very vocal about.

And some of them, I think I even included in my personal statement about how I was passionate about it. And they were issues that NYU had. In some ways explicitly stated that they do not agree with me, but I still was given a full scholarship to NYU anyway, because they respected the fact that I was someone who was very clearly, heavily invested in activism and social change.

So I think it’s more so, Are you respectful in the way that you voice your opinions? Are you someone who just, or are you someone who just gets in, gets online and is strong about the way that you feel, but you’re also insulting people who disagree with you? You’re also being hateful. I think that’s when it becomes an issue.

But just disagreeing with an institution politically, I don’t think that that should be something that most colleges have an issue with. Oh, you’re on mute. Sorry. I live around a lot of very loud motorcycles. Um, I was gonna, I was just saying, how could they? Because I feel like right now in the midst of some administrative stuff with colleges, there are a lot of students disagree with the institutions.

That’s very typical, honestly. So, um, but yeah, uh, my, the next question I was going to ask for you was should students make their social media profiles private during college application just to avoid any of this conversation right now? Is that a good strategy? Okay. Yeah, I mean, I think it’s better to be safe than sorry.

So if you’re someone who, let’s say that you are about to be a senior in high school, and you have not spent the past four years, You know, developing a strong personal brand online, your posts are not necessarily anything that’s going to help your college application. It’s not like it shows you getting a Nobel Peace Prize, you know, on your Instagram or anything like that, or meeting Barack Obama.

Like, you don’t have those kinds of pictures on your Instagram. You don’t have those kinds of tweets on your Twitter. Like if that is the situation where you’re, you’re, you don’t really have much to showcase online, then I would say it’s probably better to just go private because you don’t, you don’t always know how things are going to be interpreted if you do have someone from the outside looking in.

And so if you think that while you may, I’m sure that you’re confident from your own perspective, that nothing that you’ve posted or nothing that you share on your story or anything like that could be misconstrued. It’s probably for the best to just go private so that there’s not that, that chance. And from my experience, having taught high schoolers.

Usually it’s not the Instagram posts that get them in trouble. It’s the Instagram stories and people assuming like, Oh my, my page is public, but I’m just posting this and it’s just going to be there for 24 hours. Nobody of importance is going to see it. And then somebody important sees it. So going on private, I think it’s just the safest way to just be confident that you don’t accidentally post something that could offend someone if you don’t already have a strong presence.

I think to that point, um, and this is something that we did when I, when we were going, we were, when Facebook was still the thing before Instagram, before Twitter, um, we were advised to like purge our, our account, not to like get rid of it or put it on private, but to clean it up. Like, you know, maybe take out the solo red cups that do all these things, um, around your pictures.

Would you, do you think that there are any, I guess, guidelines or would you propose any guidelines for students who are trying to curate their online practice, maybe not get rid of it. They want to stay public, but maybe they want to clean up some things, archive some posts, et cetera. Yeah. I mean, I think in general, if you’re, if you do want to have a presence that can be, you know, respected in a professional setting or an academic setting, like you said, if you’re, if you’re applying to an, for an undergraduate degree, You, you definitely shouldn’t already have pictures of you with a red solo cup

At least I hope. But if for some reason you do, yeah. No underage drinking on, uh, on your social media, I would get rid of that. And I think just anything that could be construed as maybe you being in a situation that is not ideal, like. Bar pictures, pictures like a crowded party, even if there’s no alcohol with it.

Visibly, like, keeping it appropriate, like, pictures with your parents, pictures of the family, pictures with friends in a, you know, clean ups, cleaned up setting, you know, maybe a more staged picture. Those are the kinds of things that you may want to highlight. And as you get deeper into trying to develop a personal brand, you may only want to post things that are around certain kinds of topics.

Like here is me going in serving my community. Here’s me going to this conference or here’s me, you know, here’s our last club meeting, you know, in our black student union or whatever, like. It may get to that point and you may get to a point where you decide, I’m going to have a public page that is a reflection of my achievements and all the great things that I did for Instagram.

And then I’m going to have a private page that is just kind of for fun. My family and close friends can see. Um, so it’s really up to you, but I’d say if you do want to have a more professional online presence on platforms other than LinkedIn, cause LinkedIn really, No one posts like a inappropriate post usually on that site.

But for example, Instagram, it may be best to just have two separate ones where you can post more fun things on one page that’s private and then keep more professional things on the other page that’s public. Thanks. You mentioned the Black Student Union and then that just triggered for me. I also just wanted to give a tip for folks of like, Looking for websites or looking for accounts that might talk about specific BIPOC experiences.

Um, they, they will sometimes not be the greatest, but they will at least be perspective. Like, I know Black at Harvard is a mixed bag of positive and negative reviews of the institutions, but I think, uh, uh, an effective summary of, of that. there. So also just want to encourage that as like another kind of social media tip of your following and try to engage.

So look for some of the BIPOC group specific accounts on social media sites. My last question for you is how can parents support their Children in building a positive online presence for college admissions? Do you think parents have a role to play? I think just monitoring your kids social media and trying to be aware of the pages that they do have.

I think Kids can be very sneaky and have, you know, secret pages and things like that. So just being aware of what your child is doing online, I think is the best way. And also being aware, having words of wisdom, like, hey, maybe, like what you just posted, maybe that’s not the best, you know, maybe we can rethink that, like, That wasn’t the most appropriate thing.

Maybe that meme that you shared could be considered offensive to some people, like having conversations with your child about what’s appropriate, what’s not appropriate, um, and things like that I think can be really helpful. And maybe if your child is doing amazing things out in the community or getting awards, Supporting them by being the cheerleader and like posting, sharing those things online as well, or being the one to take pictures of them while they’re out volunteering at the community and sharing it with them so they can post it later.

Those are all great ways to, um, support your child. Um, and, and you should, in relation to what you were talking about, the BIPOC experience, I would just say, while Reddit can be accessible in so many ways, so many ways, um, It can be incredibly useful for trying to get a gauge of what it’s truly like going to different schools because people are very honest on there because there is an illusion of an anonymity on Reddit.

So that can also be just a great tool to to know what the realty is at any given college. Yeah, I’ve definitely had students bring Reddit stuff to me. I’m like, bring us all, bring us all. All right, but thank you so much. That is going to be the end of our webinar. Thank you, Lydia. Thank you all for joining us.

We do hope that you will join us for our future February session. So tomorrow, actually on February 20th, we’ll have a session on Understated Early Decision and Early Action Admissions a few days later. We will talk about navigating financial aid and scholarships for college on February 22nd, and we’re going to end off the month with a session on diversity and inclusion in college admissions.

Again, a new topic for us on February 25th and how to get strong letters of recommendation on February 27th. Hoping to join us soon, but until next time, take care and have a great evening. Everybody.