Does Social Media Help Students Stand Out To Schools?

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It's that time of year when high school seniors find out their academic fate, with college acceptance letters arriving around the country. For admissions officers, there's less emphasis today put on standardized tests and more weight put on other things, like Generation Z's social media posts.

Here & Now's Meghna Chakrabarti speaks with Alan Katzman (@alankatzman_NYC), founder of Social Assurity, about how social media can work in your favor when applying to your dream school.

Interview Highlights

On having a social media presence during the admissions process

"It's becoming increasingly important. Recently, there's been a survey out that has anywhere from 35 to 50 percent of college admissions officers taking a look, but the critical element here is that they're not looking to find embarrassing photos or embarrassing posts, they're looking to find information about that applicant. That's where, I think, education needs to come in, because it's not only increasingly important in college admissions, but scholarship reviews, and then employment as well... The reason why we started Social Assurity a few years ago was that we were seeing this increase in importance of social media as part of the college admissions review process. And all the advice out there was basically, 'Don't let anything you post cost you admission to your dream school,' and what students started to do was find platforms far off the, we call them 'digital interstates,' where they can't be found. Going under aliases, that missed the point. We've spoken to a number of colleges and college admissions officers who are saying, 'We're looking at social media to learn more about the candidate.' So, we have to teach students that they need to take the spin to a productive use of social media."

"We have to teach students that they need to take the spin to a productive use of social media."

Alan Katzman

On how applicants can use social media to their advantage

"You can expand the reach of your application by including links to social media profiles. So if you are a photographer, an artist, you can create a portfolio on Instagram and put that link on your application. We work with students to build digital portfolios on LinkedIn. It's very hard to present yourself fully on a Common Application, with a 500 word essay and very limited space to present your character, your credentials and your true interests. The competitive nature of college admissions today, that ability to stand out and show commitment or deep interest in an activity or service, goes very far to define your character and good citizenship."

On whether a social media presence carries the same weight as academics

"Grades and strength of schedule is the most critical element for college decisions. The importance of standardized test scores has been questioned, and the other thing that we're seeing — and this is where the education comes in for students — they're kind of casually communicating with college admissions offices using college names in their communications. Social media is fully monitored by colleges, by organizations, everybody monitors their mentions, and it could either work positively — if your profiles are in good shape, they can learn more about you, they can see that you're interested in going to that school — or as I said earlier, it could go against you."

This article was originally published on March 20, 2017.

This segment aired on March 20, 2017.



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