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We’ve talked before about how you can best protect yourself from blowback from your Facebook profile being seen by a college admissions officer. But Social Media doesn’t just have to be something you have to rein in, or protect yourself from. It can be a tool you use to your own benefit in your college admissions process. We’ll take you through some of the basics on how you can do that below.

So, the first thing you know is that a lot of the hubbub about Facebook’s relationship to the college search process is due to a survey published in 2010 by Kaplan Test Prep, concerning the use of facebook by college admissions officers. According ot the survey of 386 of the nation’s top colleges and universities, 82% of admissions officers use Facebook to recruit prospective students, and 80% of admissions officers have received friend requests from prospective students.

What’s this mean? Well, it means that your Facebook profile may very well be an important part of your overall college application package. And that knowledge can be used to your advantage.

1. Express Interest
You want a school and its admissions officers to be interested in you as a student? Show your own interest in becoming a student of that school. You can do that in a number of easy ways. Check out the colleges to which you’re applying, and find out if they have Twitter or Facebook pages of their own. Twitter feeds? Follow ’em. Facebook pages? “Like” ’em.

These tools give you simple and effective ways to demonstrate your interest to a school. What’s more, “liking” a Facebook page or following a Twitter feed may be exactly the thing you need to start up a conversation with someone important at the school. Which leads right into…

2. Take Part in Communities
This is an extension of the first point, but it’s just as important, and it can get you some different advantages. If you use a school’s social media outlets to get in touch with it, you can actually start up conversations and communication with other people associated with the school.

This can include your fellow prospective students, certainly, but it can also include students who are already at the school, and it can include professors or other administrative personnel at the school. Not only can you continue to express your interest, genuinely showing how curious you are and how much effort you’re expending in attempting to find out more about the school, but you’re also getting exclusive, direct information from those schools, from the people who would know best.

It’s a win-win! You’re helping your chances of getting in simply by demonstrating your devotion and involvement, and you’re getting the info you need to make certain that you’re picking out the school that’s right for you!

Don’t neglect other social media networks, either. Just because you’re connected to people directly through a school’s Facebook page doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try posting on a forum for college-goers with questions or something similar. The point here is to connect, so as to show your interest and get more information while meeting and learning about some of the most important people in the college admissions process.

3. Display Your Success
You’ve been warned away from including pictures or other references to anything you wouldn’t want your parents or grandparents to know about on Facebook or your other social media presences. That’s all right on track. But! It’s not just a matter of making sure the things you don’t want on Facebook aren’t. It’s a matter of making sure that the things that you DO want trumpeted out into the Internet are on there, loud and clear.

Won an award for science that netted you a big honking medal? Put up a picture of your smiling face with that medal around your neck! Do you spend time volunteering at a local nursing home? Ask someone to take a picture of you while you’re playing chess with Mrs. McNally and put that up on Facebook!

Heck, one of the absolute best ways to show off your skill and your commitment to a college education is to film a video of yourself, demonstrating who you are and all the things you’re proud of. You can bet your bottom that almost any school would be impressed by any student who spent the time and the effort to create a well-crafted video that demonstrates your own activities and interests. Which leads right on into…

4. Show Who You Are
When colleges are looking at students, they’re often looking for more than just academic information or lists of awards and extracurricular activities. They want to know who you are, what you like to do, what you think. Colleges aren’t interested in test-taking robots; they want actual students who will contribute to their campuses. (Although, if you are a test-taking robot, you still might think of applying after you get a hobby or two.)

If you love to travel, put up pictures of your journeys on your Facebook profile. Start up a blog about your experiences traveling, talking about what you love, where you’d like to go some day, and anything else. Read philosophy in your free time? Then go ahead and list that in your interests. Have conversations about what a nutter Nietzsche was. Are you into horseback riding? Baseball? Rock climbing? Pictures! Videos! Whatever you’ve got.

The key is to show yourself, in the full breadth of your interests. You want to make sure that college admissions officers understand you’re the type of person they want at their schools.

What’s the takeaway?
Here’s the bottom line about how you can use social media to help yourself in the college admissions game, as stated by Peterson’s resident social media expert: “Social websites allow you to show your own narrative in ways that never existed before in human history. Don’t turn your social media presence into pure marketing; that takes all the fun out of it. Show yourself as you are, with all your interests and quirks, and connect with people as best you can.”

Have any other suggestions for how to use social media like Facebook or Twitter? Let us know! Make a post on our Facebook page, and share the knowledge!