A Growing Number of Business Schools Turn to Social Media to Help Them Make Admissions Decisions
Kaplan Test Prep’s 2017 survey of over 150 business schools across the United States finds a growing number of them tapping into social media to help them decide who gets in and who does not.
According to the survey, over a third (35 percent) of the admissions officers say “they visited applicants’ social media profiles to learn more about them.” Additionally, of those business school admissions officers who’ve said they’ve visited applicants’ social media profiles, 33 percent say they do it “often.”
The focal point is the phrase: “they visited applicants’ social media profiles to learn more about them.”
Think about this for a moment. Does this simply mean that you should clean up your “social” social media activities to remove the perceived “negatives” or create an alias to hide your social media activities from such scrutiny? Or does this mean something else entirely? Understanding this distinction is critical as you commence preparing your business school application.
If business schools are looking at social media to learn more about their applicants then it is incumbent upon you to create social media content that tells the story you want to tell admissions officers. This mindset asks you to see social media in a new light. More than communicating with your friends and colleagues, social media is a way for you to communicate with people you’ve never met who will be making important decisions about your future based on what they find and see.
The holidays may be over but our online shopping habits can demonstrate how business schools (and employers) are using social media to identify and vet candidates. With this knowledge, you can start tapping into the networking and reputational powers of social media for your academic and future professional pursuits.
Let’s say you decided to buy the newest Beats Solo3 Wireless Headphones as a gift. You heard about this product and thought it might be a good gift choice. Before buying, you want to make sure the sound quality meets your expectations, that others who bought the headphones are satisfied with the purchase, and to simply learn more about Beats features and functions.
To gather this information, you might Google “Beats Solo3” and then start reviewing the results. This process serves to validate your decision as you find impartial reviews by experts and actual purchasers and read about the headphones from the manufacturer.
This is exactly how and why business schools are increasingly checking the online activities of applicants during the admissions process. Given the competitiveness of b-school admissions, they want to make sure they are making informed and comprehensive decisions about their applicants.
But what if your Google search found nothing? Would you be concerned? What if the data you found was confusing and inconsistent with the assumptions and beliefs you held about Beats Headphones? Would you still be a buyer?
This scenario shows the growing importance of crafting a discoverable social media presence that proactively conveys your skills, accomplishments, service, interests, and aspirations for others to view and assess. A digital portfolio of your work and activities is much more demonstrative of your capabilities than a standardized test. A series of blog posts is much more demonstrative of your writing and analytical skills than an application essay. Social media posts showing dedicated commitment to a club, cause, or an activity conveys your actual level of engagement in ways that listing those activities on a personal statement simply cannot. The surest way to guarantee your social media will be viewed and assessed by admissions officers is to embed a link directly on your application. Just heed the advice of William R. Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Harvard University when asked if Harvard looks at social media:
“If someone sends us a link of any kind, it doesn’t have to be from some company or some organization, if it seems relevant to making the best possible case for that person’s admission, we will certainly take a look at it.”
Likewise, at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and Emory’s Goizueta Business School, like many other prominent business schools, admissions officers will definitely turn to social media if directed there by the applicant.
Having a productive and prominent social media presence is essential for MBA students. Like that set of headphones you will never buy because it lacks a discoverable and informative online presence, The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania has noted that
“the extent to which individuals have established a strong and compelling online presence is having an impact on who gets the interview and job.”