What Students Say on Social Media Matters to Colleges and Employers

By: Dr. Cliff Mack and Joan Ramsay
To post or not to post? That is the question. CCA’s upperclassmen School Counselors, Dr. Cliff Mack and Joan Ramsay, discuss the role social media plays in college admissions and employment opportunities, share cautionary tales, and equip parents with practical ways they can guide their children to use social media in a positive, constructive, and Christ-like manner.

I think we all can agree that we are living through some interesting times. It’s almost impossible to watch the news or scroll through your social media feed without seeing headlines that make you feel one way or another. Although we are all entitled to our own beliefs and opinions, it would behoove us to be wise imitators of Christ when it comes to expressing them or any other representation of ourselves on the Internet.
it would behoove us to be wise imitators of Christ when it comes to expressing [opinions] . . . on the internet
This is especially applicable for high school and college students who are on the precipice of their collegiate and professional careers. College admission officers and employers are turning to social media platforms to gain a more complete picture of applicants. However, what they discover can potentially result in a missed opportunity and rescinded acceptance offer.

If a college admissions officer or future employer were evaluating your child’s social media presence (or even yours), will they see something they will find offensive, inappropriate, or disturbing? Or will they see that you are empathetic, responsible, mature, and respectful?

What colleges and future employers are looking for

Colleges and employers are looking for individuals who will contribute to the community and culture and not distract. A recent survey of admissions officials' opinions was conducted by Kaplan Test Prep. It revealed that admissions officials at more than two-thirds of colleges (68%) say it’s “fair game” for them to review applicants’ social media profiles on sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to help them decide who gets in.
Colleges and employers are looking for individuals who will contribute to the community and culture and not distract.
In regards to employers, LinkedIn shared this in their newsletter Pulse: “the use of social media to check up on potential employees is something that will always happen. Potential employers see it as a portal into your life that would not otherwise be visible through the interview.” According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process.

Despite what job candidates might think, most employers aren't scouring the internet looking for reasons not to hire them. Most employers are looking for reasons to hire someone. The CareerBuilder study found that 58% of employers conduct social screenings to look for information supporting a candidate's qualifications for the job; 50% of those employers’ main reasons for investigating is to ensure the candidate has a professional online persona.
Most employers are looking for reasons to hire someone.

The role social media plays in admissions

Social media can affect the admissions process when the social media post is perceived by the institution as offensive or does not represent the values of the college/university. Last year, Inside Higher Ed (2019) reported that Harvard University revoked admissions of an applicant based on his inflammatory tweets from when he was 16 years old. This particular student's social media was viewed by Harvard as not presenting “qualities of maturity and of character of those it admits.”

A second example came June 5 and June 22 via Inside Higher Ed. In these articles, Xavier University, Marquette University, University of Delaware, and Temple University all recently rescinded admission connected to social media misuse. College admissions officers will consistently state they “have a clause that reserves the right of colleges to rescind offers.” The last example is from our state flagship institution, the University of Florida; this summer, UF rescinded admission based on a student's racist tweets.
Proverbs 18:21 states that life and death are in the power of the tongue (or tweet).
Proverbs 18:21 states that life and death are in the power of the tongue (or tweet). The aforementioned articles provide examples and serve as cautionary tales of the consequential impacts of students' messages. College admissions and acceptance is not a right; it's an opportunity that can be revoked and rescinded if a college deems that a student is no longer a fit for their campus, community, or culture.

Other reasons colleges rescind admission offers

There are other reasons and rationales for college admissions to be rescinded. When students receive D’s/F’s in their senior year, admissions are subject to review and may be rescinded. Other reasons for rescission could be connected to poor performance in rigorous (AP, DE, and Honor) courses. The fallout from “Varsity Blues” — when parents, students, and educators manipulated the college admissions process — also impacted acceptance and ultimately resulted in rescinded admission.

Additionally, misrepresentation of information on college applications is not acceptable and is taken extremely seriously by college admissions officials. A CCA alumnus experienced this firsthand when his documentation was flagged after an error was identified. Although it was quickly and easily remedied, and he is thriving at the institution, it was an extra step that could have been avoided if he examined the paperwork more carefully.
It is imperative and essential for students to advocate for themselves (not the parents).
An EdWeek article highlighted the context and course of action students can take if and when issues arise. College admissions officials work to get students admitted, not denied. It is imperative and essential for students to advocate for themselves (not the parents). Parents are encouraged to support and guide students but not be the voice.

Using social media as a positive tool

Young people are often unaware of the permanence of their texts, posts, and chats. Perhaps they use an app that brags, “The pictures disappear,” and they interpret that as “no consequences.” It doesn’t take long for them to discover that a simple screenshot by anyone who views their picture transforms “temporary” into “permanent” with consequences. Parents need to help their kids understand: Nothing you post is temporary, so don’t post or send anything you don’t want your principal, grandma, or future employer seeing.

Sadly, many young people don’t often take the time to think about how their own words will affect others once they hit send. That being said, below are three nuggets of practical wisdom for students and parents to exercise when it comes to social media usage and preparing for the future:

  1. Think Before You Post

    We must teach our kids to pause before they post. Encourage them to ask, “How would I feel reading these words?” Teach them the principles of Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
    We must teach our kids to pause before they post.
    Emphasize the importance of running their posts and thoughts through a biblical filter that involves asking the following questions:

    • How am I reflecting Christ with my social media?
    • Would parents, grandparents, school administrators, employers, colleges all view my post as morally appropriate and non-offensive?
    • Would someone find something here to hold against me or give a future employer a reason not to hire me?
    • Does this put me or anyone else in danger?
    • Is it escalating a bad situation instead of offering grace and mercy?

  2. Have a Winsome Focus in Your Posts

    “The advice that I give to my own children and to my students from a personal perspective is that there is a way to support causes and movements that are important to you without being negative,” said Casie Tate, Florida Regional Admissions Counselors University of Alabama member.
    “there is a way to support causes and movements that are important to you without being negative”
    “Focus on the positive things you see and the positive things that you can do. For example: ‘I am going to support XYZ business.’ vs ‘I am going to boycott XYZ business.’ Many young people feel very strongly about the struggles our country is currently experiencing. If a person feels that it is important to show their support through social media, my advice is to do it in a way that promotes positive change and helping the people and the communities around them,” said Tate.

  3. Be Sober Minded with Course Selection

    Students are encouraged to create and execute a course schedule that is balanced with the rigor that matches their strengths and space to have fun. Senior year should be enjoyed! Each student's path to a desired college is unique and personal, not linked to your friends or classmates. A college will accept you based on who you are as well as the strength, personality, and promise that you offer.
A college will accept you based on who you are as well as the strength, personality, and promise that you offer.
In closing, students (and adults alike) must be very mindful of their social presence. God tells us in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Social media has the power to be God’s light into the world if we are careful, intentional, and seek Him before we use it.

 
Dr. Clifford H. Mack, Jr. is a high school School Counselor at CCA and has worked at Calvary Christian Academy for 7 years. He is married to Mrs. Shawnteria Mack (CCA English Department Head), they have three CCA students. He has a passion to serve, shepherd, and support student and parent success.

Joan Ramsay has been at CCA for nine years. For the last three years, she has been serving as a high school counselor for 11th and 12th grade. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Mental Health Counseling at Trinity International University. She is a Gator and Seminole mom to three children, which include two CCA graduates. She loves supporting her juniors and seniors as they seek God's direction and will for their lives after CCA.
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