By Amanda Collins
From virtual tours to online applications, when it comes to college, high school students make many important decisions with the click of a mouse.
But so do the people on the other side of the process, warns a local college and career counselor, who says that online presence is increasingly becoming a two-way street in the college application process.
“This is huge for students during the admission process,” said Michele Hearn, a member of the New England Association for College Admission Counseling. She offers personalized career and college counseling online to people across the country, and to locals right at her Sutton-based business, Hearn College and Career. “One of the first items I cover in college counseling before applications go out is the subject of cultivating a positive online presence. While not all admissions committee members check student profiles online, many admit that they do.”
According to a study by Kaplan Test Prep, at least 35 percent of college admissions officers look at candidates’ online profiles on social networking sites. But in the same study, more than half of students queried said they didn’t think their online presence would be a factor in whether or not they got in to their school of choice.
“Students need to know that whatever they post or are tagged in is public information and may be used in the decision process,” said Hearn.
She explained that admissions counselors want to know more about the person behind the application.
“A lot of candidates can look very similar on paper, when you’re just looking at a list of grades and test scores. Admissions officers want to know more about the person, their story, their goals, and how they’ll fit at a school,” she said.
Instead of letting Facebook photos or tweets do the talking, Hearn recommends students focus on sharing their story in their college essay.
“It can be a daunting task, but sometimes people underestimate the power of an essay. It’s the students chance to tell a story only they can tell,” she said. “It’s not just about being concise and well-written – it can be much more than that. It’s something that should take time and effort.”
Hearn recommends students start thinking about the future long before filling out applications and typing up essays. She works with students from junior high school through college to explore career ideas because she said having an understanding of your interests and strengths is a key to success.
The College Board recommends that students start thinking about college as early as ninth grade. Experts there suggest students find a mentor who they can talk to about their goals and go to for advice on mapping it out.
“I’ve never worked with a student or job seeker who said it wasn’t worth their time to talk to someone who can help them identify their strengths and put their best foot forward,” she said. “Support along the way can save you time and worry and move you forward with efficiency and sanity.”
Hearn helps clients in-person and online in personalized and confidential sessions. For more of her tips or to arrange a free consultation, visit hearncollegeandcareer.com, or contact her at 508-277-2944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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