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    College Planning Blog

    Students’ Social Media Matters to Colleges

    by Terri Houston on July 19, 2018 in College Admissions Counseling

    If you don’t think colleges are paying attention to what you’re posting on social media, you’re mistaken. For proof, look no further than Harvard University. In 2017, Harvard rescinded at least 10 acceptances after learning about offensive content those students had shared on Facebook.


    I expect this type of pattern to continue. Look for many schools to add safeguards to their admissions process that formally warn students that their social media profiles will be reviewed. The trend actually has been evolving for a while. About a decade ago when I worked in recruitment at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, we began debating whether we should set up formal procedures for monitoring social media profiles.


    Parents also have to take responsibility for what occurs with their children’s social media by doing a better job of modeling their own online behavior. In fairness, social media became a dominant force in everyday life so quickly that we are all on our heels and are reacting to the medium’s various iterations. But there are common-sense ways in which students can be proactive. I call them “The Be’s of Social Media”:


    • Be mindful and careful. You have to be cognizant of what you say and the pictures you post because someone is always watching. And remember, your digital fingerprint is forever.
    • Be respectful. When people are on social media, they often have a false sense of anonymity that makes them feel as if they can say whatever they want. This isn’t the case. You have to be mindful that the content you post can have a real impact on the lives of others.
    • Be positive and encouraging. Since this applies to your offline life, it should be every bit as relevant online.
    • Be clean. In other words, stay away from profanity, indecency and plagiarism.
    • Be a good digital citizen. We spend a lot of time talking about the importance of being a good citizen of the world. The same goes for the digital space.
    • Be cautious about expressing your political and religious views. These are polarizing topics, so you want to temper how you address them. You don’t have to shy away from politics and religion—after all, they might be an important part of your identity—but be sure your comments are productive and reflect well on you.
    • Be meaningful. So much of what is on social media is frivolous. Make a real effort to be thoughtful and purposeful about how you express yourself on the Internet.


    All of us—students, parents, educators—are still learning about social media. But if you follow “The Be’s of Social Media,” this powerful medium will be a force for good and not a roadblock to your future.



    PFA provides guidance for students’ best practices during the college application process. For more information about PFA’s College Admissions Program click here.


    Terri Houston is a college counselor at Partners For Achievement. Read more about Houston and the rest of the Partners For Achievement team.





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