Teens today are fluent in the Internet, but they may not realize that social media (websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare) can be great for more than keeping in touch with their friends – it can help them find and research colleges during the application process. As this article states, 89 percent of schools in a survey commissioned by Varsity Outreach said that Facebook is “ ‘very or somewhat important’ to their institution’s social media presence.” As the technology for targeted advertising on Facebook becomes more sophisticated, high school students may see links to new schools showing up on their profiles; it’s a way of bringing a college to its prospective students. And, for teens on the go, many college admissions offices are beginning to use Twitter to remind students of important deadlines and requirements.
The Internet is certainly a gift to students beginning to think about the admissions process. A great place to launch a search is to look at all of the resources listed on TeenLife.com - they encompass sites for standardized testing, financial aid, and college directories by affiliation. You can also use the College MatchMaker feature on sites like Collegeboard.org to narrow down the options.
As useful as the web can be, though, even tech-savvy teens might not always exercise the best judgment in how they represent themselves online. According to a 2011 survey of college admissions officers Kaplan put out, 24% of respondents said they had “gone to an applicant’s Facebook or other social networking page” and 20% had Googled an applicant. What’s more, 12% said that what they found negatively impacted the applicant’s chances of admission (offenses included online evidence of “essay plagiarism, vulgarities… alcohol consumption in photos and ‘illegal activities’”).
Because of this, it’s important to talk to your teens about good sense and their social media profiles – even if you aren’t on Facebook yourself. Teens might want to think twice and keep anything they wouldn’t want their parents to see off the Internet. Since social media is still a relatively new phenomenon, guidelines aren’t yet in place for admissions officers. Some see Facebook and personal blogs as off-limits, while others might go online based on a hunch. Regardless, being careful about what they post, tag, and comment on is a great practice that will serve teens well with their college search now and with their job search later in life. Read more on this subject here.