The college admissions process is not fair; nor is it set up to be an equitable or transparent process for a myriad of reasons. While most of us would like college admissions to be fair, equitable and transparent, the process is representative of the world and opportunities. Legacies, wealthy families and celebrities will always have a leg up on the pool of applicants. Families who can spend thousands of dollars on test prep, essay writers and educational consultants have the upper hand in the college admissions process. Right? Maybe not.
Social media and its implications for college admission have the ability to be the great equalizer for students vying for college and career opportunities.
Two common themes evolve when we talk to parents and educators about the importance of high school students being on social media platforms like LinkedIn. Many worry that compelling students to be on LinkedIn will contribute to the disparity in the college admissions process, separating the haves and have-nots even more than they already are. The second concern centers around the intensification of the college admissions process. Stakeholders are concerned that adding another element to an already outrageous process will force students to think about college and their future before it is necessary.
There are many valid reasons to feel uneasy about the blatant disparity in the college admissions process. However, our impetus in creating social media education courses is the belief that social media is a part of the college admissions process that cannot be gamed; we assert that social media can level the playing field for economically disadvantaged students.
Trends in college admissions show that schools are turning away from SAT testing, opting for more accurate measures of a student’s ability, like grades and essays. Social media and college admissions operates in much the same way as an essay in applicant assessment. It is easy for college admissions officers to spot an essay written by someone other than the student, a perfect essay from a candidate whose application is flawed immediately raises red flags; the same is true for social media. Inauthentic content is easy to spot. Does that mean that students (or more accurately parents) are going to stop paying professionals to write their college essays, or potentially have a professional craft an online image? No. The same parents that push the over-stressed overachiever will try to game this new component of the college admissions process. Gaming social media will be exponentially more difficult.
LinkedIn for college will not work properly if it is used merely as a home for your resume (which would probably be the professional service that would cause concern). Displaying grades and accomplishments on LinkedIn is not an effective way to utilize the platform. What is effective is displaying interests, articulating aspirations and networking among groups who the student finds as inspiring. Social media and the networking capability it provides is not a means to an end. Unlike the essay, social media’s purpose does not end when the student enters collegiate life and, if used properly, it will kick into high gear when students enter the college and the career world. Social media gives students the ability to create a dialogue with professors before they step foot on campus, engage with thought leaders who share their aspirations and show the world an authentic representation of their ambitions.
Authentic content can be a powerful dynamic in the college admissions process. Envision something a student loves to do, swimming for example. When the student invites college admissions officers or college interviewers to view his or her social media, officers see the pictures of 5:00 am swim practices 5 days a week for 5+ years, they see the applicant’s camaraderie with teammates, the glory of winning and the sportsmanship the candidate displays in defeat, and most importantly, the progression from a member of the swim team to the captain of the swim team. Social media can showcase a student’s family obligations, juggling familial responsibilities while maintaining good grades speaks volumes about a student’s character, time management competency and explains why the applicant hasn’t detailed scores of extracurricular activities. They wouldn’t have the time!
I challenge anyone who considers a student setting up LinkedIn profile to improve his or her college options as a negative concept to consider the following logic. LinkedIn is free, there is no fee associated with using the platform and no barrier to entry. Economically disadvantaged students typically have phones and these phones can provide free and easy access to social media platforms. Students who cannot afford to visit schools can now use social media to access and engage with targeted people and campus groups.
By the way, LinkedIn is only one way for high school students to showcase their talents on social media. Instragram can create working portfolios for artists and future architects. Twitter for students allows them to tweet their beliefs to anyone in the world, which facilitates limitless political, social and economic dialogue. Facebook can serve as the foundation for students to share their talents and unique capabilities with close to 2 billion people. Again, all of this access is available without any fee.
Not all students go to or graduate from college. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 69.2% of people who had graduated from high school the previous spring enrolled in college. This leaves 30.8% of students who will directly enter the job market upon graduation. This huge number of students is even more important when you look at the number of college dropouts. Education Reform Now research shows “There are now more American adults who have dropped out of college than have dropped out of high school”, these college dropouts total 29.1 million adults.
Social media can be the great equalizer among students. It is free, accessible to everyone and we know that college admissions officers are looking. It is Social Assurity’s goal to make sure that every student is taught how to utilize social media to enhance their future opportunities. Teaching social media education as essential 21st century skills to public high school students is the first step. Once students see the broad implications and prospects of social media, they only need a little time, creativity and desire.