by Hilary Flanagan
Published November 14, 2012
So many prospective graduate students are using Facebook as a social media platform; maybe you are one of them. Whether you use it every day to communicate with friends or check it sparingly to keep in touch with people, you may be able to leverage your Facebook profile when seeking admission into a graduate school program. This article gives you advice on how to avoid common Facebook user pitfalls and utilize social media to enhance the search and application phases of the graduate school admissions process.
Facebook has been around for almost a decade it has over 955 million users’. Users create a basic profile, and share with and connect to other users in the network. You can “friend” people, allowing them to see your status updates and pictures. Your profile and all the information you attach to it can be made viewable to the general public, or you can set your security preferences higher so only people you have “friended” can view your information
Pitfall #1: Posting pictures or stories of illegal or inappropriate activity to your Facebook page.
Pictures of you participating in underage drinking, drug use, or other inappropriate/illegal acts should not be posted anywhere on the site. Flaunting this behavior will not strengthen your graduate school application’s standing.
Sharing pictures through Facebook does not have to get you into trouble. There are many pictures you can put on your site that may actually endear you to an admissions committee. Are you studying abroad? Provide some pictures of you out and about. Did you participate in a service project with friends? You can probably feel pretty confident pictures like that will not negatively affect other people’s perceptions of you. Just be smart about what you are doing and remember that a prospective graduate school program and employer can always check in to see what you are posting.
Pitfall #2: Negative or inappropriate status updates
Most status updates are fairly vague and innocuous, however; posting hurtful, malicious, or consistently negative rants, could certainly be a cause for concern from a future graduate school or employer. Trust me, most prospective faculty advisors or employers for a graduate assistantship probably do not want to surround themselves with negativity. So, keep in mind some advice my mother used to share with me: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Pitfall #3: Misleading or absurd profile information
Maybe at one time it seemed hilarious to post that you were the ruler of a small kingdom in your employment section. Let me be the first to let you know it is not the least bit funny now. Nor is it clever to use any other embellishment or outright lie in your profile information. Not ever – period.
All of this is not to say you should not use Facebook. In fact, it can be a great way to stay connected and share memories with friends and family. Just be smart about how you use it. There is no need to delete your existing account. You might, after reading this, consider doing some editing, but if you are really smart about how you use Facebook, it might just give you an edge in your graduate school search. Read on to find out how.
Strategy #1: Find Facebook groups for the schools of your choice and “like” them
Most schools have a page (or many) on Facebook you can like. They might have a group dedicated to the school and/or individual programs. Join the ranks of those checking the status updates posted by the group’s host. That person is likely to be an admissions representative or current graduate student. You will find out about upcoming events, information sessions, and general happenings of the program.
Strategy #2: Search for a groups of the institution’s alumni and current students and connect with them.
These types of groups almost always exist. It would be even better if the particular graduate program of interest to you has an alumni group of its own. Check out what those students and alumni are saying about their school, program, homework, research, etc. This information is more likely to be unfiltered, so may gain additional insight into what they really think about the program.
Be sure to look at their employment information while you are there. The alumni information could be telling, as could the information by the current students in regard to their assistantships and part-time jobs; or, if they are employed full-time and going to graduate school part-time. This may be good information to research and remember.
Strategy #3: Put the word out
Do not be afraid to update your own network about your graduate school your plans. If you are checking out a few schools or programs, let people know. You might be surprised to find your aunt has a best friend whose daughter is studying exactly what you want to study. Your network cannot help you if you do not let them know how to help.
So there you have it. Facebook can be your friend when it comes to your graduate school search and application process. You just need to make sure to use it smartly. Best of luck!
Hilary Flanagan, M.Ed., GCDF, is a higher education career services expert, author, triathlete, certified career coach and certified etiquette consultant who is currently Director of the Center for Career Services at Notre Dame University
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