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Your Social Media Accounts and College

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As important as it is to figure out what colleges want to see in an applicant, from GPA to extracurriculars, it is also becoming more and more critical to recognize what you don’t want colleges to see, whether it be that low SAT score … or your Facebook account.

High schoolers make up a substantial part of the user base of most social media sites, especially Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

As people spend an increasing amount of time cultivating their image online, social media profiles may become one more aspect for admission officers to consider in their review of an applicant.

As Time Magazine puts it, one’s digital identity has become “the unspoken new admissions test.”

In fact, a recent 2017 poll by Kaplan Test Prep among college admissions officers reveals that 35% of respondents reported “having looked at applicants’ social media accounts”, and a further 25% of that subset say that they look “often”. However, colleges have mostly remained ambiguous on their explicit policies on evaluating prospective students’ digital profiles, and the question of whether or not such info really is “fair game” still stands.

So, we are left to speculate: what is the ideal balance between having an online presence and privacy? In an online survey of 150 students, the Academy Chronicle aimed to find out what BCA’s answer was.

Most students at BCA agree that one’s online presence impacts admissions officers’ opinions to some degree. Christine Choi of ACAHA 2019 explains that “you’ve only got one chance to make a good first impression”, and when someone asks if you know a person, “the first place people look is Facebook.”

As Time Magazine puts it, one’s digital identity has become ‘the unspoken new admissions test.’”

Yet, another student points out that from a probability standpoint, it is highly unlikely that colleges will look up your profile. “There are ten thousand applicants they need to go through. They won’t search up every single one.”

However, senior Chris Cimicata of AEDT does add that “colleges with more prestige should be more likely to do a general Google search to see what pops up,” even if most “people alter their names on social media anyways.”

The verdict? Since 80.7% of survey respondents say that their online accounts are private, it seems that BCA opinion is that you should remain cautious with what you post online.

Still, the notion that colleges may see what BCA students post online is not the only factor they consider when deciding whether to keep their profiles confidential. Several students elaborated that they set their privacy settings so that they can “keep followers limited to just people they know”; otherwise, the list of people in their circles grows too large to manage.

A release by Forbes estimates that the average American teenager spends nine hours daily in front of a screen – that’s likely more than the hours of sleep you got last night as a BCA student!

Additionally, roughly 85% of respondents report that they have their real name contained in their moniker or somewhere else in their profile. Since students are typically advised to maintain anonymity on the internet, what is responsible for this rather high percentage?

When students who do use their real names were asked why they do so, the rationale a few students cited was that they include their real names to find classmates and friends on social platforms, which speaks to the interconnectedness of the school online.

Another factor is that Facebook requires users to submit their real name to prevent the abuse of fake accounts. However, had it been orthodox under Facebook’s rules, some people perhaps would have used a pseudonym. For instance, Choi notes that if she had been given a choice in the matter, she would have used a false name when creating her account.

Some students, on the other hand, have multiple accounts.

30.4% of respondents have an extra profile or email for professional exchanges, and another for casual networking with friends.

When asked about the practice of manicuring one’s online content in preparation for college applications, one student replied, “I mean, you just gotta keep your profile relatively clean … It’s kinda the same deal with employers; to some extent they are looking to … see what [the applicants] are actually like.”

On the other hand, there are those who feel that a student’s social profile is not an accurate gauge of the applicant themselves. As Maryjo of AEDT 2019 explains, an assessment of your online account is not truly representative of who you are as a person because  “everyone is different in real life than online. Social media is just what you want to put out there.”

Ultimately, as Yerin Kim, an AAST sophomore, puts it, social media is a sort of double-edged sword: it can be “really helpful if you use it well, but there can be a lot of pitfalls.”

Don’t hesitate to treat social media  as an opportunity to present your social activity and personality, but always be mindful before you post. In this digital age, where nearly everything can be recorded permanently, it seems that the old adage of “thinking before you act” has never held more true.

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The student news site of Bergen County Academies
Your Social Media Accounts and College