Monday, May 25, 2015

The Positives of Using Social Media

This article originally appeared on i-studentglobal on December 8, 2014.

Recently, I wrote a piece about things students should never do on social media. This week, I am going to flip the topic and focus on things students can do on social media that might help them get noticed by schools, and in some cases, accepted too.

“... things students can do on social media ...”

First, some data. The average person spends more than 2 hours on social media per day. Virtually all students these days are, therefore, at least in some respects, experts on social media. Two hours every day adds up to a lot of time and effort. (This in itself is often much longer than some students spend studying--editorial comment on my part here.) Are you using your expertise to your advantage? Or are you simply ‘liking posts,’ tweeting fun stuff, and posting food pics and selfies on Instagram?

You are probably aware that companies are tracking your every social media click  in order to sell you things. What you may not be aware of is that some schools are starting to use this ‘big data’ to recruit students. Many schools need students and finding them through social media has become a relatively new and useful option. In addition, some schools do check on students’ social media when reading applications. In both cases, who you are will be defined by what you do on social media.

“... companies are tracking your every social media click ...”

I am going to start my list with the basics first and then move on to some things that might help those with particular interests and passions. This list is by no means exhaustive; instead, I hope to let students know how to develop some ways of communicating that will become increasingly important in the coming years.

1.  Post Positive Things:  

Students who post successes of some sort send a message. For example, a senior in high school I know recently posted some great photos of her effort to raise money and books to donate to a low income school. She and her friends successfully collected hundreds of books. Photos of tweets about winning matches, participating in tournaments, showing good sportsmanship even if in a losing cause, helping others through service, or simply something funny and smart. (This same student I mentioned posted some very funny videos with her family.) These kinds of posts make a much better impression than rants about how terrible something is.

“... post successes ...”

2.  Retweet or share things you find insightful, challenging or just artistically beautiful.

This shows you do more than just watch YouTube cat videos (not that some of these are not funny, but it won’t help you stand out) The possibilities are endless but if you share a number of things that underscore a passion you have (be it music or economics or astrophysics or East Asian art) someone looking over your social media presence will think you have what they call in admission speak “demonstrated interest”.

“... underscore a passion you have ...”

3.  Create a Linkedin account.

Some might think that beginning to build a network of contacts should wait until college. I disagree. Finding contacts is incremental. It takes time and effort. Starting early to learn to network is something more students should do. In addition, there are groups to follow that might give you information you would learn from. And you might participate in some discussions there that will make you sound good too. Learning what business people call “soft skills” early on will help you learn things you will never be taught in a class and may be as or more important to your future success. (A company I talk with,, has contracts with several of the top secondary schools in the US to help students learn some of these skills before heading off to college.)

4.  Contribute to some web communities.

The student I have already mentioned was just named a top writer on the website This on-line community of over 8,000,000 has lots of very smart and accomplished people contributing, but they only designate a few hundred people from all over the world as top writers. Her top writer status will stand out in ways almost no school activity ever could. You might contribute comments and ideas to a cause you care about, or you might find a niche in a relatively small group in which you can become a leader. Once again, the possibilities are endless, but if someone decides to Google you, your name will pop up as a part of that community. Lots of great things are happening out there. For example, I know a student who got her book published by posting the description of the book on indiegogo and asking for donations.

5.  Write a blog.

If you do have a blog make it good. Put in the effort and keep up with it. I have seen too many student blogs that start out well but after a few months the number of posts drops dramatically and then fizzles altogether. A blog can help hone your writing skills and can let people know the way your mind works. On the other hand, blogs are far harder to do than many people think, so keep that in mind before you decide to try it.

“... hone your writing skills ...”

If you think I am alone in promoting this approach let me mention that there are now companies out there that will help (if you pay them money) to create a good web presence. I don’t think students need to use this service; instead, I think they need to learn how to do it themselves.. Some schools are now asking for students to contribute things that don’t fit into a typical common application form. I think more will be doing this in the very near future. Having a portfolio on tap, having a positive presence and having the ability to contribute to the way the real world now works in terms of marketing and disseminating information is a life skill. Your ability to do create things via social media and the web overall may help you get into college, may help you find an internship and may help you get a job. It can also be a great deal of fun

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