Social Media and College: Does it Help or Hurt?
Due to rapidly advancing technology, today’s college students often face decisions that prior generations would never have needed to consider. This includes the use of social media and its effects, both positive and negative.
As you’ve probably figured out, there are numerous benefits to using social media to discover information, connect with friends and family , job hunt and so much more. But, there are also big buckets of negatives, ranging from wasting time, to false information being posted, cyberbullying and more.
Social media posts and profiles can have an impact, positive or negative, before you’ve even been accepted to your college of choice, and they can also both help and hurt your efforts to get a specific job, or advance in your career.
So, for college students, does the use of social media help more, or hurt more? There is no simple answer. To help, this post will both explore issues to consider and traps to avoid. And, ultimately, it’s up to each individual college student to make their own social media decisions, gleaning the best of what’s available and avoiding what can be harmful.
Social Media and College Admissions
Sixty-eight percent of colleges now consider it “fair game” to review social media accounts of prospective students when trying to determine who gets admitted. This means that admissions officers are, as part of the application process, often reviewing the social media profiles of applicants to help determine if a student would be a good fit for the school in general, and perhaps even for the student’s desired program.
How closely are these profiles read? Well, although more college admissions officers believe it’s a legitimate part of the process, the number of those who actually check these profiles is declining , down to 29% from a high of 40% in 2015. This is happening, in part, as students are leaving sites such as Facebook to go to non-archival choices such as Snapchat.
This basically makes students harder to find online. They’ve “gotten savvier in hiding or curating their social media footprints, even as they’ve become very comfortable with the notion of having a digital presence to begin with,” says Yariv Alpher , executive director of research for Kaplan Test Prep.
Yet, ready for this? Nine percent of admissions officers said they’d “revoked an incoming student’s offer of admission because of what they found on social media.” So, when it comes to social media and college admissions, one smart approach is to clean up your profiles before applying to your dream college, with the article offering this benchmark: If you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see your post, then don’t post it in the first place.
Social Media and College Students: The Upside
There are, of course, benefits to social media use, such as including ready access to news and other topical information. After all, 43% of Americans get at least some of their news from Facebook. In a sense, YouTube is a form of social media; after all, people post videos and others engage in conversations about them in the comment sections. And, YouTube has exponentially expanded ready access to free information, often on niche subjects that previously were difficult to research.
Plus, on just about any social media platform you can think of, you can find, access, and review articles, blog posts, videos, pictures, and more that were posted by someone else on the platform. Consuming all of this information may even help increase your knowledge of current world events(granted, if you’re not burning too much time watching viral baby goat videos).
If you need to quote an expert source on a certain subject, your social media network can be a great way to reach out, and it isn’t unusual to find that a friend of a friend is exactly who you need to talk to for your project.
Plus, social media platforms can be a great way to virtually meet people, and build and strengthen relationships. It can allow students to easily keep in touch with high school friends and family members while they’re away at college, to chat with fellow college students about school-related issues and just be more sociable, overall.
College students can become involved with groups online that are connected to the fields they’re studying and network with professionals in their fields of choice. Social media platforms can also be marvelous tools when job hunting, whether that means actually finding a job posting or relevant recruiter on, say, LinkedIn, or to let friends and family members know exactly what you’re looking for in a job and what you have to offer.
The technology of social media platforms can be conducive to forming student groups, sharing notes and information, and discussing assignments, with group projects much more easily facilitated using this technology.
Also, social media can be a great way for technologically-savvy students to demonstrate their abilities; this can lead to side gigs during college years and create quite a nice resume if this dovetails with future career plans.
Finally, some teachers like to use social media to communicate with college students, and the college itself likely uses it to share information about upcoming events and opportunities that students might like to participate in and take advantage of. So, without question, there are numerous ways in which social media can benefit college students, whether an incoming freshman or a graduate student.
But, there are definitely negatives to keep in mind.
Social Media and College Students: The Downsides
One of the biggest downsides of social media, no matter what age you are and no matter whether you’re attending college or not, is how social media can be such an incredible time suck.
You start out wanting to check one thing—just one little thing, mind you—and, an hour later, you’re still thumb-scrolling down your smartphone screen. (And, if your immediate response to that is, “You only scroll for an hour?” then you’re likely someone prone to distraction via social media posts.)
If you’re only becoming distracted by social media every once in a while, well, then that’s probably not a big deal. But if it’s affecting your ability to keep up academically, preventing you from getting enough rest, or replacing everyday interactions with people in real life, then it probably makes sense to come up with strategies to cut back on social media usage.
Another danger of social media for college students is that some information shared isn’t especially reliable. So, it’s crucial to discern the credibility of sources found on social media platforms before using that material in any schoolwork. Yes, many sources provided are outstanding, but the risk of one being of poor quality is higher than when you’re conducting more traditional forms of research.
And finally, while it’s unfortunate to even consider, there is the risk of cyberbullying on social media. Harmful cyberbullying behaviors do take place in college, and it’s important to be aware and keep your eyes open.
Can Social Media Hurt Your Career?
The short answer is “yes,” it can. Just like college admission officers may check social media profiles before admitting students to their educational institutions, prospective employers can do so before hiring. And, let’s face it, college admission officers are likely to be inundated with applications to review, whereas if you’re a finalist for a job, the human resource department may be checking your social profiles in depth. And, the common sense is the same for both situations: Don’t post what you don’t want someone in these positions of influence to see.
Used wisely and strategically, social media platforms can be a great boon in job hunts and career advancement. Just think before you post.
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