Attention high school seniors: there’s a group of important decision-makers in your life who couldn’t care less about your social media posts.
But don’t celebrate too quickly.
A few weeks ago, 21 WFMJ-TV reporter Danielle Cotterman asked me if social media use could impact someone’s admission to college. It was a good question, and based in part on a story she read on CNN’s Money.
What Cotterman didn’t know was that my first job was as a college admission counselor. I was part of a team that reviewed admission applications.
I remember the sheer volume of applications our team reviewed each year.
We looked at a bunch of data before making decisions, including the two biggies: grade point average and test scores (i.e., ACT, SAT).
Snapchat and Instagram weren’t around back then. Even if they were, there was no way we’d have time to add social media snooping to the mix of factors guiding our decisions.
Gary Swegan, associate vice president for enrollment planning at Youngstown State University, agrees.
“With more than 1,000 applications per admissions counselor, doing that much digging is not practical, even if we were inclined to do so,” Swegan said.
“This might happen at the Ivys or other highly selective institutions,” Swegan added. “But that’s about 1 percent of what really happens in (higher education).”
Swegan was referring to Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale. Their acceptance rate is about 5 percent.
Each year, the National Association for College Admission Counseling publishes a report of the top factors influencing college admission decisions.
Number one on the list: grades in college preparatory courses, followed by strength of curriculum, overall high school GPA, and admission test scores.
The next most important factors were the essay, interests, recommendations, activities and class rank.
Guess what’s not on the list? Social media.
“I have never been involved in denying admission based on social media posts,” Swegan said.
If you’re applying for scholarships, there’s a slight chance someone might review your social media posts. For example, if you’re one of two finalists for a big scholarship, someone might look at your posts before making a decision.
This doesn’t mean you should start posting inappropriate selfies and mean-spirited posts about your part-time job. It’s that latter one that still gets most high school seniors in trouble.
“I would rate (social media review) as much more prevalent amongst employers during the hiring process,” Swegan said.
In fact, most Fortune 500 companies now include social media reviews when screening applicants.
You might be in the clear when it comes to getting into your top school. But paying attention to your social media use now will help you in a few years, when you start applying for those all-important post-graduation jobs.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator newspaper on social media and society.