What you say and do on social media matters

Every summer there are several stories about colleges rescinding offers of admission because of questionable social media content. This past Tuesday, Marquette University rescinded the athletic scholarship and admission of a incoming female due to her racist social media post.

When you submit an application, and especially when you pay your enrollment deposit, you are agreeing to abide by the policies of that college or university. The college is required to provide those to you. They are typically found in the college catalog, student handbook or code of ethics posted on the college website. Most students don’t read them. You should. So should your parents.

While you may be going to college to “find a job”, the college wants to educate you. They want to do so in a diverse and inclusive place. They don’t want to bring students onto their campus who will make others in the community feel unsafe. And once you are a student, your social media posts can get you expelled if they show you violated campus policy.

Will colleges look at your social media during the admissions process? Some will and some won’t. Some ask for your social media handles right on their application. Others might have an admitted student social media group they invite you to join later in the process to help you get to know other students. Smaller colleges with a more personalized admissions process may have counselors who send you friend requests or follow you on Instagram. I discouraged this practice with my staff as I felt it was uncomfortable for the student. But not all schools see it that way. Eventually, you and your future college may connect via social media.

One way that I did use social media was to see if a student was planning to attend. We might look to see if an athlete posted a signing ceremony photo indicating their plans to enroll. If a student, who seemed interested was now ghosting us, we might check their social media to see if they had announced where they were attending (college reveal parties are a recent social media trend). If something concerning was found through one of those connections it could impact admission. I’ve luckily never discovered something that way.

I have received screen shots from people for all sorts of reasons. Angry ex’s looking to get someone in trouble. Parents of another child who felt “we needed to know”, even educators or alumni who felt someone might poss a risk to our campus. The minute you post something, someone can capture and forward it. Typically it resulted in a conversation with the student and parent. In two cases, the student “decided” not to enroll.

I’ve seen posts that were well intentioned but shouldn’t be put on social media. Don’t share, to brag or complain about, your scholarship amounts from a particular school. Competing schools could see it. While you want to demonstrate interest in the schools you are considering, don’t post videos from your top choice college visit saying it’s your top choice (your other choices don’t need to know that). For marketing purposes, many schools use social media tools that let them see when they are mentioned. If you talk about a school, even if you don’t tag them, they will know.

Be smart. Be kind. Treat others as you would want to be treated, even on social media. If we can be of assistance during your college search, please let us know.

Published by Kate Coffman

Kate has worked in admissions, financial aid, college and career readiness for over twenty years. She most recently served as the Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Franklin College. Kate has also worked in admissions at Butler University and Indiana University. Kate has presented at numerous schools and conferences helping families, educators and those who work with youth understand how to be college and career ready, how to apply to college and how to afford their education.

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