How Social Media is Ruining Teens’ Chances for College

Earlier this year, Facebook changed the minimum age requirement for joining Facebook to 13 years old. However, approximately 5 million users are under 10, according to Consumer Reports’ 2011 State of the Net Survey, showing us that social media is an inextricable part of preadolescents’ lives from a very early age. As teens are gearing up to send off applications to the most coveted schools, parents need to be aware of the influence of social media on acceptance decisions. Do colleges really care that much about what activities teens are posting on popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?

Young people meeting with digital tablet

What Colleges are Looking At

The application process for college is tougher than ever before — good grades and high SAT scores just don’t cut it anymore. Along with a stellar GPA, high standardized test scores and a thoughtful personal essay, applicants must also consider their involvement outside of the academic arena. According to CollegeOnline.org, getting involved with extracurriculars like clubs and athletics showcase the ability to manage time effectively, and shows commitment to a variety of disciplines. But this is not all colleges are looking at.

How Much Does Social Media Count?

Much of the evidence points towards quite a bit. A vast majority of teens value social networking as it connects them to friends they rarely get the opportunity to see. With such a high percentage of teenagers creating profiles on social media, colleges have begun to make considerations based on online activity. In fact, Kaplan Test Prep’s survey of admissions officers found in 2013, 31 percent visited an applicant’s Facebook or social networking page to learn more about them. This percentage has more than tripled since 2008, where only 10 percent of admissions officers conducted this type of search. If teens are not already wise to this shift, they need to be made aware of the impact of poor online choices on their admissions decision.

Ways Teens Use Social Media

According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the teenage brain is not developed like an adult brain and as a result, teens act impulsively and engage in dangerous or risky behavior. This reality is only compounded by the documentation and sharing capabilities available through social media. Truthfully, as adults, we have made poor decisions in our lives, but the repercussions have been contained to that moment. However, teens today post videos and other links to social media that can go viral across the Internet in a matter of minutes, leaving ugly and compromising evidence in their wake for years to come. Just last month The New York Times reported that a prospective candidate for Pitzer College fell into the pitfalls of social media. The teen became friends on Facebook with an undergraduate at the school, and unbeknownst to the applicant, the undergraduate notified the college of offensive comments made against one of the applicant’s high school teachers. Pitzer College generally receives 4,200 applications for only 250 spots, and because of this flippant post, the applicant was not admitted. Alarming as this may be, there are ways teens can combat this extra scrutiny.

What Teens Can Do: Smart Social Networking

The truth is, once posted online, images and words become a part of the public domain. As prospective candidates for college, teens should be extra cautious when using social media. Seppy Basili, Vice President of Kaplan Test Prep, advises teens to run themselves through online search engines on a regular basis to make sure the results are positive and clean. Applications can be strengthened when an online search turns up awards, recognitions and participation in extracurricular activities. Making an account private is not enough; the best decision is to keep private activities private by not posting them on social media. College is only the start to the full background check teens will undergo as they move forward towards employment and future careers.

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