Do Colleges Look at Social Media Profiles of Applicants?

iPhone with social media apps
Updated:
November 28, 2023
3 min read
Contents

”Mary

Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 11/28/23

Do colleges look at social media? If you’re in application mode, this question has likely crossed your mind. Let’s get into it.

In today's digital age, it's natural to wonder whether admissions officers take a peek at social media profiles during the application process. After all, our online lives are becoming more intertwined with our real ones. 

Many students are curious and maybe a bit concerned about how their digital footprints might affect their chances of getting into their dream colleges.

In this blog, we'll explore whether your Instagram feed, Facebook updates, or old tweets have any sway in the grand scheme of college admissions. So, let's cut through the noise and uncover the truth about the role of social media in your path to higher education.

Is It Actually True That College Admissions Officers Check Social Media Profiles?

Yes, it's true that some admissions officers check applicants' social media profiles, but not all colleges do this, and it's not the most important part of the application process.

In recent years, some colleges have started looking at social media to get a better sense of applicants. A 2022 survey found that about 23% of admissions officers have looked at things like TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube. 

Can colleges see your search history? No, colleges do not have the ability to see your search history. During the admissions process, they focus on the information you provide directly, like your application, academic records, essays, and recommendations. 

Keep in mind that what really matters in college admissions are your grades, test scores, recommendations, and essays. Social media only comes into play if it's relevant. 

So, if you mention your online activities in your application, like running a YouTube channel or being involved in online projects, they might check it out. Sometimes, other people, like your school counselor or those around you, might alert colleges to something online that could affect your application.

Can colleges see private accounts? Privacy settings on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are designed to restrict access to your posts and content to only approved followers or connections. 

Admission officers generally do not have the means to access or view the content of private accounts unless you grant them permission by accepting their follow or friend requests. 

However, always be cautious about what you share online, even on private accounts, as the information you choose to share with followers can still reflect on your character and reputation.

Woman on laptop

Can Social Media Profiles Influence College Decisions?

In the world of college admissions, social media does play a role, and it's worth understanding its impact. Maintaining a positive online presence can bolster your application by showing your achievements and community involvement. On the flip side, inappropriate or offensive content can raise concerns among admissions officers.

These social media checks aren't random; they often stem from something mentioned in your application or external alerts, like concerns from school administrators or others.

When it comes to admissions decisions, factors like your academic performance, test scores, recommendation letters, essays, and extracurricular activities carry more weight than social media. So, while your online presence matters, remember it's not the only thing that determines whether you get into college or not.

Group of students covered in paint taking a selfie

What Types of Social Media Platforms Do Colleges Typically Examine?

Colleges and universities often take a look at various social media platforms when they're checking out applicants. Here's a rundown:

  • Facebook: They might scroll through a student's public Facebook profile to get an idea of what they're into, what they do, and how they present themselves online.
  • Twitter: Twitter is like a window into an applicant's thoughts, interests, and the stuff they chat about with others through their public tweets.
  • Instagram: With Instagram's visual focus, colleges can see snapshots of an applicant's life, from their hobbies to their experiences, all through their public posts.
  • TikTok: TikTok's short videos can be a great way to show off your creativity, talents, and unique interests. In fact, some admissions officers might check out TikTok profiles to get a better sense of applicants.

Keep in mind that while these platforms are on the radar for colleges, not all admissions officers conduct social media checks, and their depth of exploration can vary. They typically focus on publicly available content. 

What You Should Avoid Posting on Social Media During the Application Process?

During the college application process, be cautious on social media of the following:

  • Avoid inappropriate content
  • Steer clear of illegal activities
  • Don't engage in negative behavior
  • Be mindful of controversial views
  • Protect personal information
  • Minimize excessive complaints
  • Always be truthful
  • Avoid public drama or arguments
  • Refrain from sharing sensitive personal information
  • Don't make negative comments about schools
  • Keep content professional to maintain a positive image
Social media apps on iPhone

Tips for Applicants

Here are some tips to help you manage your social media presence effectively during the college application process.

Keep It Professional 

When you begin your college application journey, it's essential to prioritize professionalism on your social media platforms. Opt for your real name or a similar variation as your usernames, and make sure your profile picture is of high quality. 

You might also want to think about setting up a separate email account specifically for college-related communications to maintain a professional image.

Control Your Content

Take charge of what you share on your social media profiles. Review your posts and eliminate any that could cast you in a negative light. Be thorough and check for tagged photos, removing any that might reflect poorly on your character. 

While cleaning up, share posts that highlight your extracurricular activities and community involvement, but maintain a balanced approach.

Manage Who You Follow 

Carefully curate the list of accounts you follow online. Consider whether you'd want colleges to associate you with these accounts. Unfollow those that don't align with the image you wish to project. Conversely, follow colleges and related accounts to show your genuine interest.

Leverage Social Media 

Take full advantage of your polished social media profiles throughout the college admissions process. 

Utilize platforms such as Facebook Pages and LinkedIn Profiles to highlight your accomplishments and demonstrate your enthusiasm for particular colleges. Actively engage with colleges on social media to communicate your dedication to pursuing higher education.

Include Social Media in College Research 

Don't underestimate the value of social media in your college research. Use it to uncover interesting details about potential colleges, offering insights into campus life and operations. 

Your social media presence can complement your application and underscore your positive qualities, so remember to stay authentic, maintain professionalism, and let social media enhance your candidacy throughout the college application process.

Young woman looking at phone and smiling

FAQs

Do colleges check your digital footprint? Keep reading for more insight into the role that social media plays in the college application process. 

1. Can a College Admission Officer Check Your Search History?

No, admission officers typically do not have access to your search history. They primarily focus on the materials you provide directly, such as your application, essays, and recommendations. Your search history is typically private and not part of the admissions process.

2. What Are Some Common Red Flags on Social Media That Colleges Might Look for?

Colleges may look for red flags on social media, such as:

  • Inappropriate or offensive content
  • References to illegal activities
  • Negative or harmful behavior
  • Controversial or polarizing views
  • Oversharing of personal information
  • Excessive complaints
  • Inconsistent information with your application
  • Misrepresentation of achievements
  • Public arguments or drama
  • Sharing sensitive personal information
  • Negative comments about the colleges you're applying to

3. Can I Include Links to My Social Media Profiles in My College Application to Provide a More Comprehensive View of Myself as an Applicant?

Yes, you can include links to your social media profiles in your college application if you believe they provide valuable insights into your character and achievements. However, ensure that your profiles are professional and showcase your positive qualities.

4. How Can I Find Out If a Particular College I'm Interested In Considers Social Media During Admissions?

To determine if a specific college considers social media during admissions, you can:

  • Visit the college's official website and review their admissions policies and guidelines.
  • Contact the college's admissions office directly and inquire about their social media evaluation practices.
  • Reach out to current students or alumni from the college through social media or online forums to gather information about their experiences during the admissions process.

Final Thoughts

To wrap things up, social media does have a role in college admissions, but it's not the sole factor. It can influence your application, so maintaining a positive online presence is wise. 

However, remember that admissions officers consider a variety of factors, with academic performance and other application components carrying more weight. So, while social media matters, it's just one piece of the puzzle in your college admissions journey. 

Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Thanks ! You're now subscribed!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Get A Free Consultation

Speak to a college admissions expert about how we can help you get into your dream school
Schedule a Call

You May Also Like

Before you go, here are a few facts about us!
The Quad Factor: Working with us can increase your chances of admission by 7x!

The Best of the Best: Our team comprises of only 99th percentile tutors and admissions counselors from top-ranking universities, meaning you work with only the most experienced, talented experts.

The Free Consultation: Our experts would love to get to know you, your background, goals, and needs. From there, they match you with a best-fit consultant who will create a detailed project plan and application strategy focused on your success.