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24 Things You Can Do With Social Media to Help Get Into College

Put Your Best Self Forward Online

College Admissions Spying on Social Media? Seems So!

In preparation for writing 24 Things you Can Do With Social Media to Help Get into College, I spoke to hundreds of admissions officers about how they were using social media in their admissions processes. Many of them informed me that they were looking at the Facebook and MySpace pages of their applicants, and that what they saw was influencing their admissions decisions. At that time, (two years ago) very few of them wanted to go on record about their social media snooping. But one admissions officer did confess that he will on occasion have the applicant’s Facebook page on his computer while reviewing an application. Several acknowledged that though they do not customarily look up candidates online, when they do, what they find has an impact on their assessment.

Many admissions officers said that their offices do not have the time nor the manpower to look up every candidate and read their social media information, but some agree that a quick Google or Facebook search really doesn’t take that long.  Now, a recent Kaplan Survey has disclosed that the trend of looking online is becoming more accepted. According to the survey, 80% of college admissions officers have come out of the closet about their willingness to look at, and be influenced by, applicants’ social media.

The fact that colleges have whole-heartedly embraced social media is not that new.  And this ever-evolving reality is not all bad news. The fact is– social media is, and is only more increasingly, becoming an important tool in an applicant’s college admissions arsenal. When you break down the Kaplan study, as has so helpfully done, there are some important positive insights to be gleaned. In the survey, 62% of college admissions respondents said that the social media profiles they reviewed actually helped the candidate. So they had a positive impact. Seventy percent of schools say that Facebook profiles of candidates are a medium to high priority in the admissions process.  Eighty-two percent of colleges say they use Facebook.  Fifty-six percent are on Twitter and 56% are on YouTube. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are watching you on these sites, as much as it means they have their own presence there.

Most colleges have at least one Facebook Group or Like page to share with their community and to highlight the school’s activities and accomplishments. Some have several pages. Princeton has 14, for example. These pages represent different departments  and programs of the school and are great ways to see what is happening on campus and to connect. Similarly, a large number of schools have their own channels on YouTube. If you check out YouTubeEDU, you will be amazed at the wide variety of video available on college channels– admissions advice, lectures, student projects, commencement ceremonies– the whole gamut. And colleges are very active on Twitter!  The college-related tweets on Twitter are so numerous, it truly boggles the mind!

As much as I am an advocate for showcasing your best self online, the truth is that spying on candidates is not the primary reason colleges have embraced social media. They want to find the best and the brightest students by meeting them when they are…and the research is clear– students are on Facebook! It’s important, then, to be aware that schools are online and participating in social media. But the degree to which they are using Facebook profiles to make admissions decisions should not be too overblown.

Several admissions officers that I interviewed expressed some concern about how students (and their parents) will react to this increasing practice of looking up candidates online.  The last thing admissions decision-makers want is for students to  begin to create artificial social media spaces solely for purposes of college admissions. This would be unfortunate. No one, including college admissions personnel, wants to see a scrubbed down, uninteresting blog site or social media profile that reflects little about who the candidate really is.

So what is a student to do? How should college applicants respond to the very clear message that what they do and say online may now have an impact?  The best way to capitalize on this new reality, instead of shutting down or white-washing your site, is to make it work for you!  Use you social media to showcase your interests, strengths and attributes. And make sure you leave on your pages what makes you interesting and unique.

One thing to do for sure– it’s a good idea to take the pictures of you drinking with a beer in both hands off your Facebook profile and reduce the 1000 pictures of yourself at parties…. But more about this later…

For a more expanded discussion, go to College Admissions on Facebook: Not All Bad News on

New Like Button is Share in Disguise

Facebook, ever tweaking their features, has decided to give the ‘Share’ button functionality to the ‘Like’ Button. This means that instead of just giving the thumbs-up to a status and/or link, now when you click ‘Like’  the entire link will appear on your page– full story, headline, thumbnail and all. This is a much greater commitment than the old way to ‘like’ something.

If you use lots of links to your posts to get traffic to your other online destinations– blog, network, videos– this is good news. The change will probably result in more visitors, perhaps a bigger audience. But this likely also means that Facebook folk will be more discriminating about who and what they ‘like’, and rightly so.

Go to Inside Facebook for the whole scoop!

The research is clear that students can greatly improve their SAT scores by studying the SAT and getting instruction before they take it.  And there is a whole cottage industry of companies that offer SAT preparation help—courses, books, tutoring and online assistance. But many of these services can be quite costly and if you are not careful in your planning and research, your SAT preparation could turn out to be quite a large investment.

Review of SAT prep books-Click HERE.

Review of SAT prep courses- Click HERE.

The best news of all is you should not let the prohibitive cost of some of these courses and materials stop you from getting meaningful SAT preparation. You have options.  Los Angeles area students are fortunate to have an excellent resource and a wonderful SAT preparation option in the FREE SAT Prep Workshop offered by the dedicated folks at Each One Teach One  Alliance for Academic Access, Achievement and Success. This organization’s mission is to

work with inner-city youth through a number of community collaborations, to improve their academic performance in mathematics, science and technology, in order to insure higher levels of Access, Achievement and Success in the most prestigious colleges and universities throughout our country.

And one of the stellar programs they offer in furtherance of this mission is their Free SAT Prep Workshop. This workshop offers professional tutoring for students who “aspire to meet the competitive challenges of the 21st Century and beyond.”

So if you are a student in the L.A. area and are in need of SAT prep help, click HERE for details.

If you are interested in helping Each One Teach One meet their mission for the inner city students of Southern California, you can make a donation HERE .

You can also find  Free Sat Prep Workshop on Facebook, HERE.

And Each One Teach One’s Facebook page is HERE.

Your Dream Plan to Stand Out May look Differently in Your Head Than in Reality

You are applying to a prestigious college or a special program and you are feeling pressure to do something to stand out. This is a common sentiment among college applicants that has been encouraged by parents and college counselors across the country.

As schools become more competitive, the pressure to be unique is profoundly felt and has been the cause of not a few examples of extreme behavior. This idea that a candidate has to do something extreme to stand out has even been captured in a number of movies—in Election, Reese Witherspoon plays a student who meanly manipulates to get a nomination for class president as part of her obsession to get into college. In Spanglish, a first generation applicant to Princeton writes a much-too-long but endearing emigration-from-Mexico story for her application essay. And in Orange County, where an “over-achieving “ student visits Stanford to convince them to change their minds about rejecting him, the student and his irresponsible older brother try all kinds of outrageous acts to correct a mistaken transcript switch!

As entertaining as these depictions of desperation are, you really don’t have to look to fiction these days to find college applicants who are going a little too far to impress colleges. Take the case of the mysterious piano-on-the-sandbar in Bisbayne Bay, Miami. For days, Miamians and the national press wondered how a baby grand piano got onto a sandbar out in the middle of the Floridian bay. Finally, according to the L.A. Times, Nicholas Harrington stepped forward to admit he put it there (with the help of his parents) in furtherance of an art project that he hoped would impress the admissions committee of a prestigious art school.

State wildlife officials served the Harringtons with orders to remove the stranded piano within 24 hours. Evidently, leaving the piano in the bay is a felony. Nicolas and his parents, but for a lenient prosecutor, could have faced jailed time.

Unfortunately, his art project did not get completed. And Nicolas is left with only a story about his intentions and his close brush with the law. Admittedly, this story might make for a different and engaging college essay. But I don’t know how impressed the admissions folk are going to be. Remember, as much as colleges may want creative and out-of-the-box thinkers, illegal activity is never high on their list of positive attributes. Thorough research, follow through, integrity and ethical behavior are highly valued. As Janet Rapeleye, Princeton’s admissions director and others pointed out in a panel discussion about what colleges are looking for conducted by Wall Street Journal’s WSJ On Campus and Unigo , schools like to look to their honor codes as a starting place for students to govern their behavior, even prospective students.  Honor codes are well established rules that allow students to self-govern cheating, plagiarism and all matters of honesty and integrity on campus and in class. Any illegal activity would likely be in violation of a college honor code. A school would also likely frown upon Harrington’s delay in coming forward to take responsibility. Many colleges make their honor codes available online. Princeton University’s is here and Stanford University’s honor code here.

So if you dream up a mind-blowing idea that you are sure will set you apart from your peers, make sure it’s legal; researched thoroughly; and does not pose a danger (or threat of danger) to others.

Standing out is a good thing as long as your method spotlights you in a positive way and reflects on your integrity, maturity and good judgment. Think honor.

And as a final note, colleges are not just looking for an event or one time publicity stunt to define you. They are interested in your track record as an outstanding person and student. So hone whatever it is you do well and be prepared to show your journey and not just one end result of it!

Be creative…but safe and not sorry!

24 Things You Can Do With Social Media to Help Get Into College provides you with A Simple Plan for standing out in the application process! Order Your Copy!

How much do you have left on Facebook?

The Internet safety experts have long urged us all, especially young folk, to keep our personal information off of our Facebook pages. Now there’s a really good reason to heed their advice. Facebook has announced via one of their developer’s blogs that through a new Request for Permission process, third party applications can now access user’s addresses and mobile phone numbers. This includes those dreaded rogue applications that make Facebook an increasingly unsafe place to park your personals!

Here’s the quick skinny on “rogue” Facebook apps. These are developers who offer apps not approved by Facebook. Among them are shady operators who specialize in devising ways to get your attention, your clicks and ultimately your personal information for their own financial gain. As Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos and Computer Weekly’s Security Blogger of the Year, says:

Facebook is already plagued by rogue applications that post spam links to users’ walls, and point users to survey scams that earn them commission – and even sometimes trick users into handing over their cellphone numbers to sign them up for a premium rate service.

Now the unscrupulous developers behind those apps will find it even easier to access personal information. What is at risk, you ask? When someone has your personal information, like your mobile phone number and address, not only can they harass you via text message, phone call and mail (well, snail mail is so not likely) with ads and marketing scams, but they now have even more of your information to succeed at identity theft.

This is no small matter.

The best action to take is to remove your address and cell numbers from your Facebook page. These apps can only access your information if you authorize it. So watch out for the Request for Permission window that pops up for third party apps. Listed on the bottom of the window is an option to “Access my current information” which allows the app your address and mobile phone number. Don’t be careless with your approvals.

Beware, be conservative with your app use and keep your information off your page. If your address and cell numbers are not there, your chances of being duped are greatly decreased.

You know…as always…better safe than sorry!

UPDATE: Facebook, after user outcry, is reconsidering this change. Though Facebook folk have taken a step back from this last decision, the initial move to provide more access to users’ information makes a huge statement about how much Facebook values your privacy. They have consistently shown that they do not have much regard for the safety of your personal information. As many experts point out, Facebook really wants to share this information.  They will likely keep trying to find ways to offer access to it.

So the message is the same for Facebook (and elsewhere), guard your information with commitment!  whatever you do not want to share on Facebook, keep off of Facebook! For more information on latest on privacy, check out this conversation.

Finish Line to College Admissions

Now that the holidays are over and the last  of your application deadlines are looping,  you want to make sure all of your ducks are in a row. The folks over at have some great last minute advice for applicants who are still working on their apps. Check out their blog post–

Top Application Must-Dos in the New Year

In this post, they offer some helpful guidance regarding those little details that may get missed as you reach the application finish line!

You are almost there. Finish strong!

How honest are you on your social networking sites?  You at least fib a little if you are like 69% of the respondents to a recent survey conducted by StudyLogic for Sheraton Hotels & Resorts. The study found that of Facebook, Twitter , LinkedIn and other social media users, only 31% of respondents said they were totally honest, while 26% said they fib a little, 21% said they post “total fabrication” and 22% said that they “flat out lie.”

If the social media realm is about creating slightly to wholly artificial personas, what does this say about how social media users are connecting? Is it really connecting if the basis of your understanding of another is false? Can you really call someone your “friend” if they are a fictitious character?

On the other hand, is Facebook lying any different from the lying people do face-to-face or on resumes and biographies, or how about online dating sites? This 2007 article says people lie on their resumes on the regular and that some experts even encourage it. Do we think anything has changed now in this tight economy? Probably not. One study showed that people lie rampantly on their online dating profiles. No surprise there. Psychology professor, Robert Feldman, says in his book, The Liar in Your Life, that most of us lie frequently and with ease to passing acquaintances and even to those closest to us. And in addition, we are not very good at detecting when someone is lying. We, according to professor Feldman, have developed a certain tolerance for untruth. We are comfortable with certain lies and even in some instances prefer to hear a white lie over the harsh truth. Human resource personnel and others who regularly field job applicants say that they know that some of the information from applicants and resumes are fluff and fiction. Perhaps this is also true for college admissions officers. Do they know when and what to take with a grain of salt? They may. But don’t count on it!

The risky part about Facebook fibs is when they contradict or are in some way different from what you have represented elsewhere. If you have submitted a college application that says one thing, you need to make sure that all of your other representations are consistent. And if you are deliberately putting forth fictions, just let your readers know so—that you are joking or telling a story. According to Professor Feldman, those who might be looking and reading likely cannot tell if you are being truthful or not. But it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry.

I know. I say that a lot!

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