Real talk, guys: colleges are looking at social media now. Unless you adjust your settings to “private” (no shame in that, by the way), there are probably one or two admissions officers out there getting to know you through the stuff you’ve chosen to post on your platforms—we’re talking Facebook, Twitter, even Instagram.
But before you panic and delete all traces of your online footprint, consider that social media, like basically everything else, is a tool that you can use to your advantage.* Follow these dos and don’ts to ensure that your accounts represent the best version of you—because if they do, they can actually help you get into college, instead of just serving to remind you that you once had a really, really bad haircut (the faux-hawk was a mistake, buddy).
*It should go without saying that if you use social media like a moron, it can really hurt your chances of getting into your dream school. You should immediately take down anything offensive (we really hope you’ve never worn a racist Halloween costume, but if you have, delete all photographic evidence and then become A BETTER PERSON) or illegal (i.e.underage drinking).
DON’T: Be fake
This is Rule #1. Admissions officers are examining literally thousands of students—so they know high schoolers, and they’ll know if you’re being fake. If you just don’t care about the effects Chinese agricultural methods have on the American Midwest, there’s absolutely no reason for you to present a cogent argument about it in a 37-tweet stream to your 261 followers. Colleges will see right through you, and you’ll end up looking at DJ Khaled gifs for the rest of your life, wondering what could have been if you didn’t try to convince people that you’re more of a nerd than you actually are.
DO: Genuinely try to expand your intellectual horizons
Maybe you always thought you’d appreciate archaeology, but never got around to studying it. Maybe you’re drawn to an interesting character from history—chase that curiosity, especially on social media! Follow experts in the field on Twitter. Hunt down relevant links you can share with your Facebook friends. Colleges want to know that you’re going to add something special to their community. Show them you’re unique, and your chances of getting in can only go up.
DON’T: Be antagonistic
Most of the better schools in the country are trying to create a positive atmosphere where people with disagreements can have constructive dialogues instead of just calling each other Communists and Nazis. They want their students to be able to learn from one another’s experiences and perspectives, not limit themselves to their own beliefs. So, even if you think your political views or your position in the pineapple-on-pizza debate line up with the places you’re applying to, don’t be a jerk about it on social media. Come to think of it, this is also a pretty good life tip: Don’t be a jerk, period.
DO: Engage with friends
So what if those pictures you took with your BFFs at Coachella were basic? Colleges like to have students who enjoy life and bring positive energy to campus. If you have fun with friends, don’t be afraid to show that in your social accounts (but as we mentioned above, leave out anything offensive or illegal) . Showcase the best of your personality, and you’ll make a good impression on the people who just might let you into the non-Hogwarts school of your dreams.