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How Students Can Leverage Social Media for College

A husband and a wife are in a nice restaurant for Valentines Day. The husband looks over to the table next to them where a high school aged couple is celebrating Valentine’s Day as well. Both high schoolers have their phones out, typing away in the midst of chit chat, laughter, and perpetual scrolling. The husband turns to his wife and says, “our kids will never do that, these two aren’t even talking to each other, kids nowadays don’t know how to have a real conversation because they are always on their phones!” I still think that is better than the couple that sits in silence for the entire meal, but I digress. Regardless, what if those high schoolers were actually using social media to benefit their college search?Below are a few ideas for how students can maximize their Instagram and LinkedIn use to help them find their ideal college fit.

Instagram. One of my favorite ways for students to research and “explore” colleges is through Instagram. Most student use Google, virtual tours, Wikipedia, etc. But with Instagram, you can see directly into the school culture in real-time. Here is how:

  1. Tap the search magnifying glass in the lower part of the screen
  2. Tap “Places” in the upper right
  3. Type in the college you want to research (example: University of Michigan)
  4. Tap on the school name

What you will see is all of the “top” posts that have tagged that specific college, but next to that is the “recent” posts which will allow you to view what is happening live at any college. This will provide a glimpse into the school culture and opportunity to connect with those in that college community. If you are interested in studying biology, you might see a post of a research student using a microscope, and you would be able to send them a message asking for advice and insight into being a biology student at that college. I have found this to be a very useful resource for students to connect with current college students and get direct feedback that they can use for their own college search. Each year my students are surprised by how much college students are willing to answer questions and share insights into their experience, but the caveat is: you have to step out of your comfort zone and ask! Also, very important about Instagram. Almost all colleges have pages for their admission department and it might be a REALLY good idea to interact with them! If you have a college you are very interested in, should you follow their content? (Yes!) LinkedInLinkedIn is one of the most powerful platforms any high school student can use (as long as they are sixteen which is the minimum age requirement). LinkedIn will provide a way for students to connect with current professionals in the industry they are interested in, or if the student has no clue what they are interested in, they can connect with professionals across many different industries. Here’s a step by step guide to maximize your LinkedIn use:

  1. Create a LinkedIn profile (Google LinkedIn profile for high school students and there are endless resources of what you should put on your profile.)
  2. Connect with family members, friends, teachers: basically anyone you know personally.
  3. After you have 25 connections (from friends and family) type in a job title you are interested in into the upper left “search” bar. Example: video game designer (there will be over 150K people with that title you could connect with!) and click on “select all” people.
  4. Click on one of the profiles and then “connect.”
  5. When you click connect you will be able to leave a “note” of 300 characters or less, and tell the person why you are connecting with them! (You will be shocked by how many adults will connect with you and offer advice and insight into their career).
  6. After you connect with many adults your “feed” will now predominantly be within the industries you desire to learn more about. You can like, comment, and share content of those you admire, and the best part is, the visibility of those actions is extremely high because fewer people are on LinkedIn. Someone with 4 million followers on Instagram will receive ~100K+ likes and 2500 comments, but that same influencer will have under 1000 likes and 50 comments for similar content on LinkedIn. This means that if you participate in your community, the content creators will see it; (and that will help you!)

Students, now when you see adults scoffing at you because you are on your phone at a restaurant, just tell them it’s for college! That might be a stretch, but now you know two new ways to use technology for more than just SnapChat and Fortnite. Use these opportunities to learn more about colleges, connect with professionals in any industry, and interact with colleges every single day!