In 2017, 10 students had their acceptance to Harvard rescinded because of inappropriate online activity. They had posted racist memes in an online forum for incoming freshmen. Harvard became aware of these posts and issued letters to all 10 students that they were no longer accepted on campus.
This is not just Harvard. In the last few years, there have been an increase in these canceled admissions. This has happened at Cornell, the University of Florida, and others.
However, it is not just inappropriate remarks that can affect a college decision.
Take Aly Drake, who lost her place on a college sports team because her TikTok videos about her mental health and general concerns about life were considered “too negative” by the coaches. She treated TikTok like a diary where she spilled all her thoughts on life, relationships, and her daily struggles. Unfortunately, that negatively impacted her college admissions.
Drake felt like she was being authentic and connecting well with a supportive audience, particularly since she was able to utilize the algorithms to gain so many followers. Her potential coaches did not agree.
It might be tempting to put all your information online and share everything you do or feel. It is how people connect and companies ask you to engage with them.
However, it is worth being cautious about what your digital footprint is showing to people you need to impress. If you have ever felt embarrassed by a picture of yourself from a few years ago (remember that day in 6th grade?), it’s worth thinking about how the pictures you take now will look in a few years. Teachers who need to write recommendation letters, future employers, and admissions officers will all be able to see these posts. Even if you feel like you’ve grown out of these moments, that digital trail is still visible and the people viewing it do not know that.
Students need to be cautious about what is shared digitally, even when they think they are sharing in a private group. Many young people have a preference for short-lived posts on platforms like Snapchat, but they should keep in mind that screenshots and screencasts are shareable. Anything they put online could be shared by others, or seen by people you did not intend to show them to.
Young people who are used to working with and communicating with their peers sometimes forget that the people who will be deciding on their admissions are much older than they are and may not see a high number of followers as significant. Rather, the content they see might raise concerns that the student will not perform well in university.
It is best to assume that anything recorded online is discoverable.
This is not to say that students must have a perfectly curated social media presence. Authenticity is still a valued trait. What they should have is a consistent media presence with the materials in their application. They should consider their social media to be an extension of their application for school, future jobs, and other opportunities. If they have a passion for protecting the environment, then that should be visible on their public profiles. They should show their struggles in the context of a growth mindset as they are working towards a goal.
Understanding the perceptions of others is a deep-thinking skill that students don’t always acquire naturally. They need to spend time meeting people outside their usual comfort zone and learning from other perspectives. Students also need to practice thinking about long term consequences. By practicing setting short and long term goals, it trains the brain to think of the consequences of choices they make today. These are just some of the skills we teach in our advising sessions and deep thinking classes.
Through our work, students learn how to present themselves in the best, authentic manner and shape their applications to their best advantage, even on social media.
To learn more about these educational related topics, come meet our team at any of our monthly workshops! Be sure to follow us or be part of our newsletter to stay connected!