6 Facebook Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to College

Don't risk your college admissions dreams with these common social media mistakes.

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Some schools, like Wake Forest, scour Facebook specifically looking for bullies.

College admissions officers might be watching you. A recent study by Kaplan revealed that around 80 percent of admissions officers are using Facebook as a factor in their admissions decisions. A third of the officers who took the survey say that they found something that made them decide to deny a student admission.

You may need to change up your Facebook habits to make sure they don’t affect your college aspirations.

Common Mistake #1: Keeping your profile completely public

Many of the problems Facebook causes can be solved by simply making your profile private. But there are different levels of privacy on Facebook. You can allow everyone to view your profile (this is the "public" setting), or you can restrict it to just your friends. Facebook also allows you to set up custom privacy settings where people in certain networks can view your profile even if they aren't your friends.

Common Mistake #2: Cyberbullying

Think about the kind of student most colleges want to admit. They want students who are have passion, integrity, and maturity. They want to make sure you will be a positive contribution to their campus.

Cyberbullying, or any behavior that can be viewed as bullying on the Internet, can paint you in a negative light. If college admissions officers see you as the mean girl (or boy) at your school, they might pause when it comes to your application. This can be especially damaging if you're already on the fence for admission or if you're up for a prestigious scholarship.

Some schools, like Wake Forest, scour Facebook specifically looking for bullies. So be careful what you say, even if it’s just a joke!

Common Mistake #3: Contradicting your application

It’s important that your Facebook profile does not directly contradict your application. For example, if you say on your application that you’re passionate about classic English literature, you don’t want to rant on Facebook about how you hate reading.

When you submit a college application, you’re trying to give colleges a specific picture of yourself. It only hurts you if your Facebook profile contradicts that picture.

Common Mistake #4: Posting violent or offensive content

College admissions officers are still looking at the whole student. According to an article by The Wall Street Journal, one admissions officer noted that a student had been disciplined at school for fighting. When he went to check out this student's Facebook page, he saw pictures of him holding a gun, which probably made the officer think twice about admitting him.

When you’re applying to college, avoid potentially offensive statuses. Even if it’s just a joke you heard in English class, keep in mind that colleges typically promote gender, race, and sexual orientation equality.

Common Mistake #5: Posting evidence of illegal activity

Colleges want students who are going to abide by the law. It seems like a no-brainer, but if you’re participating in illegal activities (drugs, underage drinking, theft, etc.), don't post it on Facebook.

If you're a "regular" applicant who is applying with thousands of other students, it's unlikely admissions officers will look at your Facebook profile too closely. But if you're up for a scholarship, applying early, or have something else that sets you apart, you're likely to come under scrutiny.

Common Mistake #6: Trashing the schools you're applying to

Obviously, this is a big no-no. If you apply to a school, visit their campus, and then start bashing them online, the school’s admissions office isn’t going to look favorably upon you as a candidate.

Some students claim this isn't fair because they use their social media profiles to vent about the stressful college applications process. While this may be true, the fact remains that admissions officers are watching. Don’t give them any reason to put your application in the “No” pile.

Quick Tips

  • Admissions officers probably aren’t going to look beyond the most recent months when they do look at your profile. Statuses from several months ago are probably safe, but double check pictures in which you are tagged.
  • Schools that may not otherwise check into a student's social media life, like Princeton University, may actually look into things if they get a tip that a student is posting offensive or illegal activity.
  • While Facebook is getting the most attention from college admissions officers, be advised that your Twitter accounts are also most likely public. Think before you post there too, particularly since many people have their Twitter and Facebook accounts linked.

Stats source: UberGizmo and U.S. News and World Report

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