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EdSocial: 4 Ways to Use Social Media in the College Application Process
Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Let’s face it: getting into your dream college is harder today than ever before.  According to the NYTimes, the world’s most competitive institutions had their lowest ever average acceptance rates in 2013, with the best of the best, like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, accepting lower than seven percent of those who applied (Harvard, for example, accepted only 5.79%, or 2,029 students out of the 35,023 who applied).

Do a simple Google search--something along the lines of “how to distinguish yourself for college admissions”–and you’ll find no shortage of articles offering up hundreds of useful tips, from the specific (“How to Distinguish Yourself if You Go to a Small High School”) to the broad (“What Colleges Want to See on Your Application”).  No matter what the particular angle or focus of such articles is, exactly, almost all of them suggest that the applicant express genuine passion and enthusiasm for the schools to which he or she applies–not only in the application essay, but also during interviews and even during campus visits.  

But if you’re a busy high school sophomore just embarking on your college search, how do you find the time to do all of your “homework” on the schools you’re most interested in?  And what if there simply isn’t time in your hectic schedule nor room in your budget to visit the dozen or so institutions on your shortlist?  Luckily, you can learn almost everything you need to know about the schools you’re thinking of applying to by following them through their Social Media sites.  Here are four ways to do it.

1. Like Your Top Choice Schools on Facebook.  It couldn’t be any easier than this, really. When you log-in to Facebook and check out your Timeline, posts from schools whose pages you’ve Liked will appear regularly and will keep you up-to-date on all of the latest happenings at those institutions.  Some universities’ Facebook pages, like Michigan State’s, allow visitors to listen to the testimonials of alumni, students, and parents, which will give you valuable insight into what life is like on campus.  You’re on Facebook anyway, so why not use it to learn more about your favorite schools?

2. Follow Your Dream Colleges on Twitter.  If Facebook isn’t your hang these days, then go to Twitter (or open an account) for short, sweet bites of information Tweeted by the colleges and universities you’ve set your sights on.  If you’re already on Twitter, then create a “Potential Schools” list with all of your top choice institutions (if you’re not sure how to create a Twitter list, click here).  Then just take a peek at the list and and scroll through each school’s feed on a regular basis.  Or, if you’re thinking about adding a school to your list, search for the school (by hashtagging it) to see what others are Tweeting about it.

3. Subscribe to Your Universities’ YouTube Channel(s).  If you have a Google account, then you can subscribe to the YouTube channels of your short-list schools.  And most universities’ Youtube channels are especially helpful because they feature short videos that answer questions for prospective students.  Pomona College’s YouTube channel, for example, features an “Admissions FAQ” video library, wherein you’ll find brief candids with current students and faculty members who explain what it’s like to live, learn, and work there.  And many schools’ Youtube channels offer in-depth campus tour videos (UCLA’s tour, for instance, is almost 17 minutes long).

4. Read Your Prospective Schools’ Official Blogs.  Many universities not only maintain their own blogs, but they also include student blogs on their website admissions pages.  The student bloggers, who are invited or recruited to participate, share their thoughts and reactions to campus life, classes, and other things, thereby giving future students a chance to read what it’s like to be enrolled there.  See, for example, Intrepid: My Ithaca Adventures, a blog by Cornell freshman Sarah Lam.  And for a convenient, comprehensive list of blogs maintained by top institutions, click here.

These are just a few simple suggestions.  In addition to the above social media, many universities have Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr pages; so if you really want to dig deep, be sure to take a look at those too.  But before you get started, don't forget that your own "social media footprints" should be neat and presentable; if there's anything you wouldn't want a college admissions official to see, then erase it!

Good luck!