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You’ve been warned. In this digital age, 40% of college admissions officers scour your social media profiles about as closely as your academic records. While this Facebook (or Twitter or Instagram) stalking may seem invasive, it’s also a window into your judgement, values, and sense of humor – and now, two can play at this game. Just as admissions officers may use your Facebook profile as a measure of your character, you can glean lots of meaningful information about a school from its social profiles. We are huge fans of employing all kinds of creative research strategies that take you beyond the school admissions website, from combing Facebook feeds to following school-helmed Instagram accounts.
To help you get started – and to provide a concrete example – we took a peek at UC Berkeley’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram profiles and broke down the kind of information you’ll find on each platform and key details to look out for in posts. Cal is a great example partially because it represents the larger University of California system, and also because it has both a regular profile and an admissions profile on every platform. Many schools have split profiles like this, but some don’t. No matter what, it’s a good idea to search for both because they can tell you very different things about a school when separated. Berkeley is a great example because it really maximizes its use of social media, and it will give you a sense of everything you can expect from other schools’ profiles. So, know that all of our Berkeley-specific observations will be true of almost any other school you want to look up. Let’s dive in!
If you want to know what makes UC Berkeley people tick, this is the place to go. The general Facebook page is your window into the latest happenings in the Berkeley community, which can highlight student life, but is equally likely to include quotes from professors, news on the latest research coming out of Berkeley, campus photos, and alumni news. Following Berkeley on Facebook will allow you to see what excites the community, not only in what students actually do but also in how they respond to posts. Peek at the likes and comments and see what the dialogue is like; you may just find Berkeley is the perfect outlet for your interest in social theory or microbial biology. You’ll also know what is going on at Berkeley now, and will be able to include up-to-date and dynamic information in your personal statements.
Okay, so you know there’s cool stuff happening at Berkeley, but where are the hard facts and stats you need to apply? Berkeley’s separate admissions page features updates on all of the key info you need as a prospective student, from stats and rankings to key deadlines and planning your campus visit. It even helps you troubleshoot the online application system. You’ll also find updates that relate directly to your potential campus experience: What kinds of things are undergrads accomplishing? What new clubs and study abroad options are there? What cool people come to speak on campus? It’s a great place to ask questions and engage directly with the school because it is truly geared to your needs.
News news news! If you thought the Facebook page was packed with Berkeley news, think again. The school Twitter page is essentially a higher frequency version of the Facebook page, featuring story after story about impressive Cal students, professors, and alumni. The benefit, here, is volume: more articles, fewer audience interactions. So, if you really want to keep a pulse on all the UC Berkeley happenings, this is the place to do it.
The admissions Twitter, on the other hand, is all about interaction. While there’s plenty of overlap between the Twitter page and the Facebook page, the Twitter page also constantly retweets prospective students, admitted students, and any user-generated info or tools that applicants might find helpful. This is probably one of the best outlets for quick answers your burning questions. Many schools even host live Q&A sessions via Twitter during the peak of application season.
This is the best place on the internet to drool over beautiful campus photos, new and old. If you aren’t able to visit, Instagram could be your best way to take a (meticulously filtered) campus tour. It is also usually the outlet where schools are most likely to share student-generated content, so it’s also a great way to see UC Berkeley through the eyes of real students and alumni and get an authentic picture of campus life. We typically discourage clichés, but a picture really is worth 1000 words, and engaging your senses in a different way will help sustain your excitement during the application process, while providing a trove of concrete details you can weave into your essays.
While also full of drool-worthy campus photos, Berkeley’s admissions profile is equally packed with photos of Berkeley cafeteria-fare (which are just as likely to activate your salivary glands). In many ways, the admissions profile is even more focused on student life than the regular profile, highlighting the many aspects of campus (like the food) that might entice a bright, dynamic student (like you!) to apply. The heavy focus on undergrad activities, buildings, and traditions will give you a holistic sense of what your journey through Berkeley could be like.
Everyone uses social media to present their best self (yes, even top universities!). It’s always wise to take each post with its due grain of salt, but if you watch closely enough, you’ll also be able to catch meaningful candid moments you’ll never find in a brochure.