How is college admission being affected by social media?

By Aaron Wische - Senior Executive Producer

HOUSTON - What teens are sharing online is under scrutiny by college counselors. But not all social media sites are bad.

Students should be using certain social media sites to showcase their talents, while avoiding controversial posts that could ruin their chances for admission.

Sean Ojha is a high school senior, but he's been getting ready for college long before now. 

“So my parents kind of raised me with this intense focus on education. Being immigrants, they had to study a lot to come over here to America and succeed,” Ojha said.

As the competition gets tighter to try to get into more prestigious schools, college prep for many students is now starting early.

"Sometimes it’s really cut-throat," Ojha said.

Along with college prep, Ojha took another big step during his sophomore year.

"I decided that when you type in Sean Ojha in Google the first thing you are going to find is my LinkedIn and my personal website," he said. 

Ojha decided to get a LinkedIn account and revamp all of his social media accounts.

"You should still have a Snapchat. You should still be able to contact your friends, share your highlights of your day," Ojha said. "But I feel like you should have a difference between your professional image." 

College counselor Patrick O'Conner said college recruiters and admissions officers will look at an applicant's Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat, even though they don't always admit it.

"For many students, the real challenge in social media in college admissions is having them understand that social media is a communication device," O’Conner said. "If students are going into college thinking that this is basically an electronic diary -- and that’s the mistake kids make. They feel like they can put all their personal (information) out there on social media and there is no real consequence -- that’s a real problem."

That's a lesson Ojha is glad he learned early on, before it was too late.

"You can’t always be publicly broadcasting who you are dating, who you are in a fight with on your Facebook," he said.

Instead, O’Conner said to use social media to your advantage, as a way to show off your talent.

“If you’re thinking about doing film, put your links to YouTube up on social media so that the top hits are going to be things that would put you up in a good light,” O’Conner said.

Admissions officers said they track an applicant's social media behavior to help predict how likely they are to succeed on campus, if they're admitted.

2016 Click2Houston/KPRC2