Given that most teens and young adults have some presence on social media, this brings to mind the question:

Will college admissions departments check my social media?

The fact of the matter is that colleges and universities can easily check the social media accounts of prospective students. These are, after all, public platforms, and access is relatively straightforward.

Whether schools actually do check accounts is up for debate. However, according to a 2020 survey performed by Kaplan Test Prep, 65% of college admissions officers believe that checking public information on social media accounts can give them a good perspective on the character of a prospective student and should therefore be considered “fair game.” Of that group, only 36% said that they checked accounts. Nonetheless, considering how that is a significant number and likely to increase, before posting on Tik Tok, Instagram, Facebook or other accounts, there are things you should know:

When and why would colleges be most likely to check my social media accounts?

While anyone can see the public version of your social media accounts, they cannot view your private information. However, if what you post publicly brings any negative attention to you, it can be viewed as a red flag, and would thus increase the likelihood that your social media behavior would come into question.

There have been incidents where admission offers have been rescinded upon discovery of negative behavior on social media. Harvard University is probably the highest profile school to rescind offers – in both 2017 and 2019 – to students who were sharing hateful memes and making racist remarks. This is certainly rare, but a very distinct possibility, given the growing popularity of social media. While admissions officers are mostly focused on grade transcripts, standardized test scores and college application essays, they want students who not only perform well in the classroom but are of good character. Exploring social media accounts is one way that they can get a true picture of who you are.

What should I NOT post online?

There is one clear rule of thumb when deciding what to post on social media: Would you share your experience or opinion in a face-to-face interview with an admissions officer? If there is any question whatsoever, think long and hard before posting. While there are some obvious things to avoid (evidence of underage drinking, illegal behavior, insensitive or offensive language or content), also pay close attention to the not-so-obvious. Perception is reality, and what you may consider to be funny or harmless can be seen differently by others.

Privacy Settings

Privacy settings on social media accounts are critical and should be used wisely. In short, you can limit who can view your content. You can also make your account anonymous, so that colleges can’t associate it with your name. Additionally, it is very important to delete anything already posted that could reflect poorly on you. This includes comments you’ve posted on others’ accounts, photos in which you’ve been “tagged”, and your “favorites”, “likes”, and “interests” that could be associated with the wrong crowd.

What SHOULD I post?

Social media accounts can actually be a positive platform for those entering the college admissions season! Aside from checking your privacy settings and monitoring your posts for questionable material, you should also use your accounts to highlight your most impressive characteristics – which can have a positive impact on your application should anyone decide to check you out. Reinforce what you have put into your college applications by showing your interests in schools, posting about your passions, and sharing positive highlights about your social life.

Use social media to your benefit.

Don’t let the admissions process intimidate you or dictate how often you post – rather, use it as a way to enhance your applications. Remember that you have the power to take control of your social media feeds and turn them into a positive thing for admissions officers to view. Look at it this way: If what you post could potentially harm your chances of getting accepted to the college(s) of your choice, it could just as easily help you. Consider the risks and the benefits, then safely post away!

At Moxie College Counseling, we are here to support you throughout the application and admissions process. For questions or further information on this or any other relevant topic, feel free to contact a member of our Team.