Are you active on social media? That’s kind of a silly question in 2017, because, who isn’t these days? Increasingly, prospective employers, admissions committees and even future classmates search online and develop opinions before ever meeting you in person. Kaplan Test Prep’s recent survey of over 150 business schools across the United States confirms this, revealing that a growing number of them tap into social media to help them decide who gets in and who does not.
Of the admissions officers surveyed, over a third (35 percent) say they have visited applicants’ social media profiles to learn more about them, a jump from less than a quarter (22 percent) in 2011. Additionally, many who check profiles do it frequently — of those business school admissions officers who’ve said they’ve visited applicants’ social media profiles, 33 percent say they do it “often.”
Notably, social media both hurt and helped applicants in nearly equal proportion. Among admissions officers who visit applicants’ social media footprints, half say have they found something that negatively impacted an applicant’s admissions chances — more than triple the 14 percent who reported this in 2011. Among the online discoveries that have hurt students:
- “I found one student who made it clear that he wanted to flip houses. I thought, ‘Why should we offer a slot to him when you don’t need an MBA to do that.’”
- “I learned about a student’s racial attitudes and didn’t want to bring that into the school.”
- “We have had applicants who had disturbing pictures on their Facebook account.”
On the flip side, almost as many (48 percent) reported finding something that positively impacted an applicant’s admissions chances. (This question was not asked in 2011.) Here’s what helped applicants:
- “We saw lots of information regarding volunteer work that was not included in the application.”
- “We got a better understanding of the student. We got to learn more about their hobbies, and ambitions.”
- “We were able to see their writing samples and creative thinking.”
Among all admissions officers, 61 percent agree with the statement “What students post on their social media pages is in the public sphere, so it’s ‘fair game’ for us to use to help make admissions decisions,” which may signal there is room for more taking this route.
“Successful business school applicants are the ones who are prepared. They submit strong GMAT or GRE scores, high GPAs, compelling letters of recommendation, impressive essays, and wow at the interviews. In a sense, that makes it scripted and choreographed, though rigorous. Business school admissions may take to social media to look for the less polished version of the applicant, not necessarily to find their weak spots, but just to see how they are in everyday life,” says Brian Carlidge, executive director of pre-business and pre-graduates programs, Kaplan Test Prep.
“What you post on social media is a wildcard in the MBA admissions process and not nearly as important as the traditional factors, but always be mindful of what you share. Your social media footprint can potentially give you an admissions boost, but in some cases it can and will be used against you,” Carlidge warns.
Here at SBC, we reassure clients that being active on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms isn’t a complete no-no. In fact, savvy candidates use these venues to boost their credibility and solidify the good impressions made through their application materials.
If you don’t consider social media to be another way to strengthen your candidacy, you may be missing out on a great opportunity that other MBA applicants will most certainly take advantage of.
If you need help, Stacy Blackman Consulting offers a dedicated social media strategy service that provides direction for an overhaul of your online brand, allowing you to take charge of those first impressions. Whether you need to professionalize an existing profile or develop a presence on an entirely new platform, we provide informed direction on which steps to take.
For a b-school applicant, proper management of social media channels can also help you expand the scope of your application without infringing on limited essay word counts. Reach out today and we’ll show you how to make the best impression possible with your online brand.