By Carol Barash, PhD, founder and CEO, Story2Consider this: applying to college is the beginning of college. How you manage the college process determines not only where you land but something much bigger: who you are and what you do in college once you arrive.
I know the college process feels nearly unendurably stressful. You’ve worked so long and so hard, and the eye of the needle seems to get narrower every day. It’s true that college is hugely expensive, and only 69 colleges provide a family’s full demonstrated financial need (only 40 if you want to graduate without loans).
If you are academically qualified for those 69 (you can find out on their average grades and test scores on their web sites), you should apply. But there over 3000 other colleges in the US, and many of them will provide financial aid if you stand out as a “must have” candidate. Social media engagement can help shape you into someone with a unique voice and purpose: the kind of student who outperforms the odds in college admissions--and life.
Here’s how to do it in 3 steps:
Revealing why you are a unique “must have” and not a generic “nice to have” is where the college process begins. And you can begin where you are hanging out already: on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, working on your online reputation management with these three steps: figure out what matters to you (matters enough to do or say something out loud), who are the key voices and what are the key threads of that conversation, and what’s your story and point of view?
What matters to you? All around you, working out into the world from your circle of friends, you encounter people figuring things out in conversation with other people. When you start to use social media to explore what matters to you, you may be surprised what you find. Which conversations grab your attention? Find conversations where you feel your voice and your actions can make a difference.
Whose voices stand out as key threads in the conversation? What’s at stake in the conversation and who’s saying what? Before you jump in with a simplistic “I agree” or “I disagree,” take time to listen. Whose voices matter? What makes their voice important? If you try to map the conversation, what are the key roads in different directions? What are the implications, what happens in the world downstream from different parts of the conversation?
Where do you stand in the conversation? Once you understand what’s at stake, and have been following key voices, it’s time to add your voice. It’s simple if you start with stories from your own experience. People can disagree about ideas, but your experience is valid and incontrovertible. Ready to get started on linking your social media and college admissions presence? Learn to tell your story and get inspired by other students’ stories at Story2. And when you’re ready, add your voice to a conversation where your words can help others. Speaking out is action. Listening and honoring other voices is action.
Start anywhere. Be willing to try things. Be willing to fail. Be the student colleges are looking for: the student who stands for something, who courageously speaks up in a public forum.
Dr. Carol Barash, former English professor and advisor to the admissions committee at Douglass College, Rutgers University, author of Write Out Loud, and founder and CEO of Story2, has empowered over 20,000 students to write authentic admission and scholarship essays. She has been building digital communications tools for over 20 years, and through Story2 teaches the art and science of storytelling to expand college access and career readiness for all people. Have questions about storytelling, college admissions, and life choices? Ask her anything on Twitter @carolbarash.