Social Media Can Help - not just hurt - Student's College Prospects

With the explosion of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and all the others, there have been plenty of stories about how a student's social media could hurt their chances of getting into the school of their choice -- enough accounts to worry teenagers that what they post could come back to haunt them at college time.

But what teens -- and their parents -- might not be aware of is how often college admissions officers say social media positively impacts a prospective student's application, as opposed to reducing their chances of admission.

Thirty-five percent of the 365 college admissions officers who participated in a telephone survey by the educational services company Kaplan Test Prep said they check social media during the admissions process. That number is down from 40% last year but dramatically up from 10% in 2008, when Kaplan started asking the question about social media as part of its annual survey. A 30-second video illustrating the survey’s findings can be seen here.

“The growth of social media hasn’t made college admissions a whole new ballgame, but it’s definitely impacted the rules,” said Yariv Alpher, the executive director and head of market research at Kaplan Test Prep. “What you post online can and may be used in your favor or against you, so it’s important to think about what you share. When in doubt, the best strategy may be to keep it to yourself.”

Of those who said they look at a student's social media networks, a larger number said the review benefited the applicant: Forty-seven percent said what they found had a positive impact on prospective students versus 42% who said what they discovered had a negative impact.