Did you know that teens spend an average of nine hours a day using media outlets?
As an educational consultant and college admissions coach, it’s fascinating to watch this trend play out. In an hour-long consulting session, my students check their phones multiple times, reconnecting with the world to make sure nothing unbelievable or incredibly ordinary has taken place. They can’t miss anything. It’s their oxygen.
But as a mentor, a parent or anyone who cares deeply about our youth’s future, we can help teenagers use their social media platforms to better prepare for college. Try these three strategies:
Follow Colleges and Universities on Instagram
Through visually appealing Instagram posts, teens can get a flavor of campus culture. But here’s where Instagram thrives: When you go to the search bar in the Instagram app, you’ll notice a feature called “Places.” This feature allows you to search virtually any location in real time. Immediately, your feed is populated with the most liked and most recent pictures taken at the location you’ve chosen. These photos are often taken by the college students themselves.
Imagine a high sophomore whose dream school is UCLA. With the Instagram “places” feature, she has visual access to real-time activities taking place at Pauley Pavilion through the eyes of Bruin undergraduates. She can grow comfortable with her dream school even before she ever takes a step on campus.
LinkedIn for Teens
You may be surprised to learn LinkedIn is for teens, too. Recently, I met with a high school student applying for a summer visual arts program on University of Southern California’s campus. We hopped on the program’s website and found the names of several professors in the program. We then looked them up on LinkedIn.
I encouraged the student to create his own profile, then follow select professors, read and study the content they share on LinkedIn, and leave an insightful comment below each article over the next several months.
After they’ve shown consistent support and interest, it’s time for teens to follow up. I encourage students to reach out to professors via email, and let them know they’ve been actively following their published content. Lastly, I recommend they request a telephone call or brief email exchange allowing them to ask three to five prepared questions about their field of interest. They may get a few no’s, but they’ll eventually get a yes. Any high school student can use this strategy. It’s online networking 101 and it works.
Student Athletes Get Noticed on Twitter
Year after year, many capable high school student athletes miss out on the opportunity to play collegiate sports due to a lack of visibility. It’s difficult when college coaches don’t know students, no matter how talented they are.
However, college coaches are fully immersed in the world of Twitter, and student athletes who take advantage of this social media outlet can put themselves in a stronger position to play at the next level. Always remember: Visibility creates opportunity. I recommend high school student athletes do the following:
- Create a highlight video of his or her talent via YouTube or hudl.com, and share on it on Twitter.
- Follow 5-10 local writers who cover high school sports. College coaches pay attention to these Twitter accounts. Stay on their radar and “tweet @ them” to share his or her team’s performance and personal highlights.
- Tag college coaches directly when tweeting their highlights. Research which college coaches on the staff recruit for your region.
There’s no exact formula for college recruiting success. But to give teens the best chance of becoming a college athlete, it’s imperative for student athletes to make themselves visible — and social media has leveled the playing field no matter where they live.
If our teens are going to be online several hours a day, let’s teach them how to use social media as a powerful tool to network, planting the seeds for a bright and successful future.