Stories about the negative aspects of social media are everywhere. Despite the reports (or perhaps because of them), teens still turn to social media for information. What if we flipped the script and focused on social media that offers positive advice and trustworthy resources? If teens are utilizing social media as a source for news and information, how do we meet them where they are? Who are the influencers, organizations, and universities embracing social media to inform and inspire students by providing them with the best tips and advice for applying and transitioning to college?

College Admissions and TikTok

If you have spent any time on social media in the last few years you are familiar with TikTok. Even if you don’t have an account, you know a teen who does. TikTok has almost 3 billion users. Gen Z (born between 1997-2015) is responsible for 60% of TikTok’s users, and 947,778 users 18+ join the app DAILY—the exact age demographic that universities target for enrollment. TikTok is to Gen Z as Instagram is to Millennials.

People go to TikTok to be entertained with short, catchy, and most importantly—authentic— videos. What started as a place for entertainment has turned into a platform to share information and inspire. Now colleges and education influencers are taking advantage of that.

How Teens View the Platform

Teens make up the majority of TikTok users, and over 70% of those users feel the platform is authentic and impacts change. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that there are many TikTok accounts taking advantage of this unique opportunity to offer college advice and attract potential students. The challenge is to provide students with valuable information, while helping them use the platform safely and effectively by:

  • Shining a spotlight on those sharing accurate, timely, and well-intentioned information about the college application and transition
  • Noticing the difference between posts and accounts that are humble brags or highlighting opinions or accomplishments of a single person versus those dedicated to sharing data and resources
  • Reviewing how TikTok curates information for users

University Recruitment and College Admissions

Most university accounts and posts are focused on showcasing their core values, financial aid or scholarship opportunities, and general application tips. In addition to official university posts, schools also have student ambassadors who post content as a way to show the life of a student and engage in peer-to-peer recruitment. The goal of these videos—whether it be ‘day in a life’, ‘study with me’, building or dorm room tours, or student interviews— is to help prospective students get a feel for what it is like to be a college student.

While most student ambassador content is vetted by the universities, these posts are more like the personal experience or opinion posts by private influencers. This does not mean university and organization’s posts should be deemed fact or automatically trusted or that posts by student ambassadors or influencers are biased and should be avoided. However, it does mean users need to be discerning and aware when using TikTok. Posts that evoke strong feelings and cause a reaction are often playing on emotions. The key is to find posts that encourage critical thinking.

How TikTok Collects Information

Being an informed consumer means understanding how TikTok collects information based on viewing habits. TikTok’s main feed is called the For You Page (FYP), a personalized feed with curated content for each user. This page recommends content based on what users interact with. The FYP is similar to Instagram’s “Explore” page. As you use the app, the algorithm provides suggestions further tailored to your interests. Influencers and organizations use FYP pages to find hot trends/challenges, figure out how to incorporate them into their brand, and reach thousands of people quickly.

TikTok Accounts Focused on College Admissions

Below are some TikTok accounts focused on the college admissions or transition process. While there are useful tips and valuable information within these posts/accounts, it is important to note that they are created by influencers whose number one job is to attract and grow followers. Students and families should ALWAYS verify information and data with college admissions counselors, university websites, Common Dataset, IPEDS, College ScoreCard, high school or independent college counselors, and other vetted and trusted sources of information.

TikTok as a College Admissions Tool

TikTok is not just a distraction from everything on our to-do list; it can be a reliable tool in the college research, application, and transition process. The key is to find the right influencers AND utilize outside resources to get an accurate and well-rounded sense of the admissions process or any college campus—and to avoid being swayed, emotionally reactive, or overly influenced by one person’s experience.

For more information on how you and your student can effectively use TikTok and other social media platforms, contact us. Our expert counselors are here to help you navigate the college admission process.