Social Media and College Applications

Would your Facebook profile make it through a review by college admissions officers? How about your Instagram account or Twitter feed? With more colleges checking applicants' social media content as part of the admissions process, students need to tread carefully online.

"A good rule of thumb is just keep your social media footprint clean," advises education consultant Brittany Maschal. "Do not post anything you would not want your grandmother to read or view online."

But hiding from the world may not be the best way to go, either. You can actually use social media to enhance your standing in the eyes of a college admissions officer.

"Liking a school's Facebook page is a way to show your love; same with their Instagram account or other social media accounts," says Maschal. "Some schools do track 'likes,' so as long as you are keeping the material you post clean -- because when you like a page on Facebook they are notified, so they MAY click on your profile -- then it can only show your interest and not harm your candidacy.

"Some students may occasionally tweet a school or reply to a tweet posted by schools, which again is a good way to demonstrate interest."

It might be worth developing a presence on some of the social media sites more commonly used by adults, too, like LinkedIn and Google+.

"Using Facebook to establish character; using Twitter to demonstrate interest in a school or a topic; getting your LinkedIn profile up and running to generate engagement; and using Google+ to establish your online identity within Google are all great steps towards turning your digital footprint into a working asset," wrote Alan Katzman in an article on the Social Assurity website.

You should really be thinking long term anyway, says Maschal. A significant number of employers research applicants' social media posts as part of a hiring review.

"Honestly, you should want to have a clean social media footprint not just for the sake of your college applications; you should want one for life," says Maschal. "Things you post are more likely to come back to haunt you when applying for a job than when applying to college, so use good judgment ALL of the time."