Most juniors and seniors have heard the warnings from high school college guidance counselors, parents, and other adults about the importance of scrubbing social media pages of questionable photos and language — no red solo cups, obviously, no wild party photos or other questionable comments that could get into the hands of admissions officers and negatively impact an admission decision at a particular college. Almost half of admissions officers do pay attention to social media sites so heeding this advice is a no-brainer.
On the flip side, maybe it’s time for students to be more proactive and creative about using social media as a tool to market themselves to colleges. A news segment on NPR’s Here and Now, Does Social Media Help Students Stand Out To Schools?, made what I think is a compelling case about students using social media to shed a brighter light on their specific talents, interests, background, and personal experiences than what is possible through a college application or essay. For example, if you’re doing summer research, why not talk about the experience, what you’ve learned, or the paper or abstract you wrote via a post on Facebook. The bottom line: use social media as a tool to positively market yourself to college admissions staff.
Recently I worked with a student who wanted to transfer after her first semester at a large public university to a smaller college in Texas. If you plan to transfer to another college, here are some important considerations to keep in mind:
- Your high school grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities will factor more heavily in the admissions decision if you plan to transfer after only your first or second semester in college. While your college grades will be taken into account, your high school record will matter equally if not more.
- You can and should retake the ACT or SAT if the score you submitted as a first-year student was lower than you anticipated and you are applying after one or two semesters of college. At many competitive colleges transfer applications are due in March or April. Plan to take the ACT or SAT test in early winter or spring to ensure your scores reach colleges by the transfer application deadline.
- Your college grades and activities will be the most important factors in the admissions decision if you attended the institution for two years or more.
- Take time to visit campuses, search college web sites, and talk to admissions officers and other college faculty and staff. Make sure you have done due diligence in finding the right college that is best for you in terms of the size, culture, academic offerings, and so forth.
- Make sure you find out the extent to which your academic credits will be accepted at transfer schools and what that means in terms of tuition costs and degree completion time.
For juniors who want to put in the good thinking and reflection it takes to write an effective Common Application essay, here’s your chance. In February, the Common Application announced the essay prompts for students applying to college during the 2017-2018 admissions year.
While you’re probably not ready to start writing, this gives you plenty of time to think deeply about the experiences, challenges, events, and other aspects of your life that best reveal something meaningful about you to college admissions officers. If you do the good thinking now, chances are you’ll have a solid draft of your Common App personal essay completed by mid summer with time to begin focusing on supplemental essays required by many colleges.
An article in the Huffington Post provides some good information about these changes and practical advice for students as they consider what to write about.