Will your Twitter handle help you or hurt you during college applications?

It’s true — college admissions officers really are checking your Twitter account. “In a Kaplan Test Prep survey of more than 350 college admissions officers in the U.S., 35 percent of officers polled reported having looked at applicants' social media accounts to learn more about them,” according to U.S. News & World Report.

What you say, like and retweet on Twitter is about to be scrutinized, so it’s time to dig deep into what’s out there — yep, even all the way back to middle school. Any hints of bullying behavior; intolerant language; or even just overly crass, immature humor? Get rid of it (and maybe send out some apologies while you’re at it). It can be tempting to just go private until you’re accepted somewhere, or rebel against “the man” keeping you from expressing your true self, but you shouldn’t do either. Twitter is a great way to show the world — and admissions professionals — who you are … the best possible version.


Starting now, your social media presence isn’t just a platform for you to talk with friends and share funny memes. It’s a way to craft a personal brand and stand out among your peers.

In fact, 47 percent of admissions officers who review social media said it usually positively affects how they view applicants. "One student described on Twitter that she facilitated an LGBTQ panel for her school, which wasn't in her application. This made us more interested in her overall and encouraged us to imagine how she would help out the community,” one admissions professional said in a release provided by Kaplan.

How are you supposed to stand out when there are 317 million active users on Twitter? Figure out what you care about. Choose three or four passions, and build your Twitter presence around those. They don’t all have to be career-oriented, buttoned-up or even particularly unique. It’s how you share your passions that matters.

For example, let’s say you want to practice law someday, you run track, and you’re obsessed with your golden retriever. That’s great! Now run with it. You could tweet out the oddest, funniest laws from around the world, share information about animal rights and relief efforts following natural disasters, show followers your best running views, give your reaction to a trending law-related news story, retweet a funny comic about the relationship between dogs and their people, link to an animal shelter in need of donations or an article about avoiding running injuries, tweet about your excitement over passing your midterms, a post-5k selfie, or a sweet shot of your sleeping dog. You get the idea.

And don’t stop the self-promotion once you get an offer to your top-choice school. Not only is putting your best foot forward online a lifelong endeavor (just ask Justine Sacco, Anthony Weiner or — most recently — Ted Cruz), but U.S. News & World Report says that “officers that did check social media and saw negative posts — including the brandishing of weapons and questionable language” in some cases even rescinded offers.

It’s time to stand out from the crowd — in 140 characters or fewer. Have fun!

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