Hear from experts on how your online image can help you in college admissions
Harvard has rescinded acceptance opportunities from at least ten students for obscene memes. Things that they did quietly in their own time has changed their future drastically for their family. I have two experts here to talk about the Harvard rejection and share tips to avoid making social media blunders– first I have Mandy Stangeland, a college admissions consultant, from Wise Owl College Consulting and I have Casey Rowley, a college counselor, from Beverly Hills High School. Essentially students were accepted and they were going to go in the fall. These students, however, were doing obscene things in a private Facebook group and it was discovered and reported with the college ultimately discovering it.
What is something positive that students can do to make sure that this never happens to their family?
Colleges and employers are looking at your social media and “googling” your name. –Mandy Stangeland
I think the real key takeaway from this is that colleges are looking. That is a message that not enough people are familiar with yet. Colleges and employers are looking at your social media and “googling” your name. You want to give them something positive to see. Clearly, this is an example of someone putting something negative out there, it was seen, and there were consequences but the same thing can happen on the positive side. You have students that are doing really remarkable things and then using their social media to highlight those things and then college admissions advisors see that and feel positive about those students. Colleges want students who will represent them positively with their accomplishments and in the future as an alumnus. –Mandy Stangeland, Wise Owl College Consulting
There are websites and organizations that are helping students show their positive accomplishments and personalities earlier such as Raise.me. It is a scholarship website where students can go on as early as 9th grade and they can post online publicly the positive things that they are doing and it links directly with colleges. Other private organizations are catching on as well and helping students highlight and shine online. I think there is also a bigger conversation where there is a lot of lead up to the actual application and acceptance, and then once a student gets accepted it’s kind of like “home free” and the senioritis kicks in. I think the point here is that we are not looking to get students accepted. We are looking to get students accepted with a university that shares the same values, interests, characteristics, and attributes. It’s not just about the college acceptance. It’s about continuing on through your internship and your career. –Casey Rowley, Beverly Hills High School
What are some practical and tactical tips that you have in this situation?
One is to have these conversations with these students regularly. Have it be part of their education, part of the curriculum, expose them to this stuff more and then role model that as parents and educators. Say that we are a part of this group and we use these tools. Show students how they can be used positively day-to-day. Most organizations, of all sizes, are using social media to some extent so we want to teach young people how to use it as a consumer and how to use it in your day-to-day life. When you are on the Internet, you are presenting something to the whole world. That doesn’t mean that you have to agree with the whole world or that the whole world has to agree with you, but you do need to know what types of content and information belongs online. Students can learn about what does belong online and what does not by seeing it modeled and by having these conversations at school.
As students are getting ready to send in their applications, a lot of schools are saying that if you link your social media into your application then they will take a look at that. Sports students can share their highlight reels and photos from their sporting events each weekend. Students that are interested in robotics can build a YouTube channel or those interested in poetry and writing can start a blog. Get your content out there that demonstrates your uniqueness. Be risky with being brave and putting your originality into the universe, but don’t be risky with questioning whether or not something is appropriate to share online. –Mandy Stangeland, Wise Owl College Consulting
If you are a rising senior or a junior, you don’t have to go to the campus to show a college that you are interested in them. –Casey Rowley
Demonstrated interest is something that colleges are starting to really pay attention to and something that is increasingly spilling into social media. Colleges are on snapchat, they are on Instagram and Facebook and they send you emails and videos. They can track if you open an email or if you follow them on Facebook or Snapchat. If you are a rising senior or a junior, you don’t have to go to the campus to show a college that you are interested in them. You can go online and follow their social media to not only stand out but to show the college that you are a good fit for them and that you mirror their values when they look at your social media profiles. –Casey Rowley, Beverly Hills High School
Everybody is going to have a bad day, but we tell students that they should vent via text, over coffee with a best friend, over the phone, with your parents, but not online. Do you vent on social media? What do you tell students about where to vent and how to be themselves?
We ask students, “If we printed out your social media page right now and handed it to the college that you are applying to tomorrow, how would you feel?” It does because most of the time they get this smirk on their face like, “Oh shoot, I don’t feel comfortable with what is on their right now.” I think it is also teaching our students healthy coping skills so they know how to vent appropriately. –Casey Rowley, Beverly Hills High School
It is okay to make fun of anyone…as long as it is yourself. –Josh Ochs
Another thing that I have heard is that people say that they have a right to make fun of people online. It’s their right with freedom of speech. We are telling students that it is okay to make fun of anyone…as long as it is yourself, but as soon as you make fun of someone else where does that go? –Josh Ochs, SafeSmartSocial
I think it goes back to the simple statement that Mandy made earlier, “Is this good?” Ask yourself, “Am I the type of person who is known for knocking others down? Or am I the type of person who is building others up?” There is a way to show your standpoint that is appropriate and if you feel differently about a person’s opinion then you can join a club and be an advocate in a positive and appropriate setting. Then it goes back to that saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Once you post it, it is there forever and it showcases your character. –Casey Rowley, Beverly Hills High School