Tyler.Social media photo reducedA student applying to veterinary school once gave me an unpleasant task: clean up her Facebook page, which featured a photo of her smearing purple Crisco on the naked torso of a football player.

This isn’t the impression applicants to graduate school or college want to leave on social media.

Admissions officers do visit social media pages to get more information on prospective students. This happens more often at competitive schools when admissions officers are on the fence about a particular applicant and can’t decide whether or not tooffer admission. The student’s social media presence can make a difference — either positively or negatively.

A 2021 Kaplan survey showed that nearly 65 percent of 300-plus college admissions officers who were polled across the country said they had no problem with using social media as a factor in the admissions process. About 17 percent of the admissions officers said they “often” checked out an applicant’s social media profile.

If you’re applying to college or graduate school and are not sure how to handle your social media, there is one simple rule you should follow: Think before you post.

Here are some other guidelines on how you can use social media to your advantage:

Five Do’s

1. Join the Facebook and Instagram pages of universities you are applying to so you can keep up with the school’s news. You should also sign up for Google alerts of schools you’re interested in.

2. It’s important to post your extracurricular activities on social media. Visual artists can share their work on Instagram or Pinterest. Performing artists and athletes can start a YouTube channel to share concerts, plays and competitions.

3. Join LinkedIn and set up a professional profile that lists all your school and extracurricular activities and work experience. This is especially important for students who plan to study business or marketing.

4. If you want to major in journalism, open a Twitter account and post links to articles you’ve written for your school paper. You can also follow professional journalists to learn how they use this platform.

5. Choose your two favorite social media platforms to concentrate on. If you take on more, you will not be able to do a good job posting quality content and following schools you’re applying to.

Five Don’ts

6. If you have questionable posts on your social media pages, you may need to hire a social media recovery company that will bury the negative content. Typically these companies will hire a writer to upload content that will hide inappropriate posts
that turn up on Google searches.

7. Make sure that your username or handle is professionally sounding and not something that would embarrass you. It’s also important to use a high-quality profile picture to help you make a good first impression.

8. Don’t post photos of yourself doing something that would have a negative impact on your college or graduate school admissions, such as being shown playing a drinking game. You also need to check whether you’ve been tagged in an embarrassing photo a friend may have posted — if you have, ask your friend to remove it.

9. Avoid any type of hate speech on your social media pages. In 2019, Harvard rescinded its offer of admission to a student from Parkland, Florida who had posted inflammatory racist language on social media when he was 16. Despite his apology for what he had written, Harvard would not reconsider its decision.

10. Don’t post anything about your applications until you have received an acceptance offer. Schools in your region often read posts in which they’ve been tagged so you should keep the details about your application process private.

Social media is a two-edged sword in college or graduate school admissions. While using it inappropriately may hurt your chances of being admitted, leveraging it to your advantage can help. It’s worth your time to follow a social media strategy that will highlight your strengths and avoid the pitfalls in misusing these important communications tools.

Lucia Tyler is a college admissions counselor who works with students applying to college and graduate school. You can contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit her website.