Putting Your Best Facebook Forward: 5 Ways to Impress Colleges with Your Profile

When I was in high school, I heard the same Facebook advice (or warnings) over and over: Don’t post inappropriate pictures. Don’t post private details. Don’t curse. And, most importantly, take advantage of those privacy settings. In other words, keep your online image squeaky clean, but then lock it down so tightly that no one can see anything anyway. And while this advice was helpful, there’s an aspect that was missing. Instead of simply discouraging posting the negative stuff on Facebook, why not encourage posting the positive stuff? If colleges are creeping on your online profiles – and many are! – why shouldn’t we give them something impressive to see?

According to a 2018 Kaplan Test Prep survey, 25 percent of college admissions officers scope out a prospective student’s social media profiles when making their decisions. Even scarier, a 2017 survey from the American Association of Collegiate Recruiters and Admissions Officers discovered that 11 percent of those surveyed had actually denied students based on their social medias. Your online presence carries weight, and it’s important not to underestimate that.

I won’t beat a dead horse and remind you not to post crazy pictures from spring break or shocking Eminem lyrics. Instead, we’ll focus on how you can actually use Facebook to catch the eye of those 25 percent of admissions counselors who are lurking your pages.

Quick note: While I know platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok are quickly replacing Facebook as the social media go-to, we’re just focusing on Facebook in this blog. My advice for those other apps? Unless you’re tweeting exclusively about great books you’re reading or only posting photos of the charity work you’re doing, just keep them private. Make sure your profile image and bios are appropriate, and secure everything else. That doesn’t mean you should post anything less-than-appropriate… it just makes your life easier!

Figure out what exactly on your Facebook is public, and make it college admissions-friendly.

Scour your privacy settings to figure out just how much is visible to someone who isn’t your friend. Another handy trick is clicking on the icon with three dots on your profile, and selecting “View As” to see how your profile appears to the public. Take note of what admissions counselors can see. Feel free to loosen your security settings so they can seen more of the resume-worthy content you’re going to add!

Only post profile and cover photos that would make your grandmother proud.

That picture of you sticking your tongue out in a swimsuit on spring break is funny, but it doesn’t exactly scream, “I am a scholar and philanthropist who will become an upstanding member of a college campus!” Just saying.

It’s important to make sure your profile and cover photos are not only appropriate, but ideally showcase the best version of yourself. Choose something your grandma would happily put in a frame on her bedside table. A senior portrait or a simple, smiling photo are great choices! Photos of you doing something you love, like playing a sport or participating in an extracurricular, are also great. When I was applying to college, my profile photo was a picture of me accepting an award at a journalism conference. I call that a humble brag photo, and I’m all for it.

Click through your visible albums, and make sure that ALL of your past profile and cover photos are appropriate. Delete the others.

Write a bio that reads like a short, cool resume.

Under your profile photo, you can add a 101 word bio that is public. Use this space to write a little bit about who you are. What are your career goals? What are your passions? Highlight them briefly! A short and sweet bio that reads something like, “Aspiring attorney with a passion for true crime podcasts” makes you seem both ambitious and still human.

Make sure your “Details” are up-to-date.

No, not that that your relationship is “It’s complicated.” Make sure the information that would be relevant to college counselors is there. Make sure your school and hometown are accurate, so that they’ll be able to find you if several people share your name. If you have a part-time job, make sure you’ve listed it. If you have a blog or passion project you’re proud of, share a link to it there.

Showcase your passions and interests in your About Me.

Go to your “About” tab, and click through each category (Work and Education, Places You’ve Lived, etc.). Make sure to set things you want counselors to see to “public,” which you can do individually in this tab.

The place in your About where you can really have some fun is the “Details About You” tab. Here, you can share information about yourself, as well as your favorite quotes. This is the perfect place to discuss your extracurriculars, hobbies, passions, goals, and so on. Don’t worry about making it too formal – this is social media, after all. Just make sure it’s appropriate, and presents the best side of you.

As an English major, I filled my Favorite Quotes section with excerpts from my favorite books. You can use this section to do the same, or post quotes that inspire or motivate you. Then, make sure it’s all set to public!

Share your voice with public posts.

Every time you post on Facebook, you can choose who is able to see that specific post. This is a great way to cherry pick posts that you want admissions counselors to see. If you posted about your soccer team winning state, that’s definitely a post to set to public. If an article you wrote for the school newspaper is posted online, that’s public-worthy. If you’re raising money for a charitable cause near and dear to your heart, make that post public. In other words, make your passion posts and humble-brags public!

Additionally, this is another easy way to showcase your passions and interests. You can share articles and videos that you find interesting, or use it to recommend great books or films. Set all of these kinds of posts to public, and admissions counselors will get to know a lot more about who you are. Steer clear of controversial issues and, as always, make sure your posts are appropriate, kind, and grammatically correct!

Remember, you can click back to the “View As” setting to see what your profile looks like to the public. This is a great way to double check that your page looks exactly like you want it to!

After you’ve spent hours on your college essays, triple checked your application, collected recommendation letters, and paid the application fees, it’s worth it to spend some time polishing up your Facebook profile. In an era when college admissions are more competitive than ever, cover your bases and make sure your online presence is on point.

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