As the time comes to apply to university, many keen young students are told to make sure that there’s nothing too embarrassing on Facebook or Twitter that the public can see. Make your profiles and tweets private, keep your picture reasonably straightforward, and you’ll be fine.
However, as social media tightens its grip on all facets of modern life, several new start-ups are looking at ways to help applicants use it as a canvas from which to demonstrate their viability for their target schools and employers. Generally, advice is to focus on the following areas:
• LinkedIn to show your professional interests and achievements.
• Instagram for creative or artistic self-expression.
• Facebook to demonstrate a “virtual narrative”.
• Twitter to build an extended network of contacts.
Many experts believe it’s a good idea to include social media links on your university applications, specifically encouraging institutions to use profiles as supplementary sources of information. This has the positive twin impact of heading off any mistaken identity issues, while providing far greater depth and breadth across key accomplishments and strengths. Writing a great graduate LinkedIn profile can be particularly effective.
In Kaplan’s recent annual survey of hundreds of university admissions, it was found that 40% of admissions administrators visit social media, with negative outcomes frequently coming from those visits; poor use of social media can be extremely damaging to an application.
New businesses focused on adding value for applicant students in this area include:
Social Assurity: social media education for high school and college students that helps them build honest reputations and establish relevant networks. www.socialassurity.com
ZeeMee: a dedicated platform specifically designed to bring a college application to life, as well as network with other students. www.zeemee.com
There’s a great deal that students can do to enhance their personal branding and create an effective hybrid application. Making sure that viewable pictures aren’t too party-focused is crucial; no admissions officer is going to be impressed by a hard-drinking party animal. Still, there should be a sense of a well-rounded real human in there; don’t try to present yourself as some sort of saintly illusion, it won’t work and will likely come off as artificial or, worse, dull. Try to be yourself while being aware of any rough edges.
How these advances will develop over time is unclear, but at the moment, given the competition for places, it seems unlikely that many admissions officers will have the time for a deep dive into your social media profiles, so making sure that a quick glance is a positive experience, is a great idea. Don’t forget LinkedIn; of all social media accounts, this is the one where your settings are expected to be private. A good graduate LinkedIn summary and picture is essential.
Profile pictures are crucial. Look at the camera, make sure it’s a well-lit head and shoulders shot with the eyes visible and smile while avoiding the cheesy ‘dopey grin’ effect.
A great way to check whether your wider social media presence is effective is to look at it all your profiles from someone else’s perspective; check your privacy settings, sign out, then look at how you’re coming across to the public. Getting advice from experienced people is, as always, a key step in the process.