At this point, everyone’s mom, grandma, and uncle is on social media. Some of us at Admissionado remember when you had to have a .edu email address to get on Facebook. Ah… those were the days…
Okay, enough reminiscing. Because of its almost universal use, social media has become an important tool, and sometimes a dangerous pitfall for people applying to MBA programs. A recent Kaplan study of admissions officers at American universities reveals that almost 40% of respondents looked at a candidate’s online presence when making an admissions determination. Now you don’t just have to worry about grandma seeing the pictures of that ill-advised Halloween costume, you have to worry about how that poor posting choice can send admissions committee members the wrong message about you, and your “personal brand.”
But if you’re applying for MBA programs, you’ve probably already had some work experience and have learned how to police your online presence to avoid the more obvious social media mistakes, like not complaining about your boss on Twitter, #duh! However, what you might not have considered is how your social media profile could help you differentiate your MBA application from the rest of the crowd.
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Increasingly, elite MBA programs are branching out from the traditional goals and leadership essay prompts in their applications. Cornell’s SC Johnson School of Business, for example, allows students to respond to its “Back of the Resume” essay in a format of the applicant’s choosing. While some applicants still choose to respond by writing an essay, Johnson also accepts PowerPoint presentations, videos, or links to existing online media. This is the perfect opportunity to utilize your online brand to say something powerful about yourself. For example, say you started a burgeoning sustainable fashion company that uses social media to communicate your company’s commitment to fair trade practices. You’ve got some awesome photos of yourself with the linen farmers you work with in Poland. Maybe instead of writing a traditional essay for the Back of the Resume prompt, you could tell the Johnson admissions committee a lot about your values and brand management skills through a guided PowerPoint tour of your company’s website and social media presence.
While the possibilities for using your social media profile in the increasingly abstract MBA prompt universe are infinite, your online presence is also just as important for more traditional MBA essay responses. For example, in your Fuqua application, you tell an inspiring story about your volunteer experience with the Red Cross in response to Hurricane Harvey. While it’s not guaranteed that the Fuqua adcoms are going to look at your Facebook profile, if there’s a great photo of you hauling sandbags knee deep in floodwaters, you’d better make sure that puppy is your profile picture for the application season. You know, just in case.
Additionally, not every MBA essay prompt is open-ended, and most have a pretty restrictive word count. So, even if you try your best, you can’t fit every accomplishment or award you’ve won in your application. This makes it imperative that you keep your Linkedin account up to date and in the best shape possible.
If your online profile happens to not be 100% squeaky clean, be careful not to go overboard in the cleanup by deleting all of your online photos or adopting the most private security settings. One online branding expert from Fuqua cautions that a sparse online profile is suspicious and could tip adcoms off to someone who’s trying to hide something.
At the end of the day, keeping your online presence work-friendly is the sensible thing to do, for your facebooking grandma’s sake, and if you have plans for getting an MBA. With more adcoms looking at applicants’ social media pages, we think there’s an opportunity to not only use your online presence to back up the claims you’re making in your essays, but to make your chances of snagging that acceptance letter even better.
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