Social media and the law school admissions process

By Rachel Margiewicz  

Social media can be a blessing and a curse. When you’re applying to law school, you must be aware of your digital footprint. You don’t have a lot to gain, but so much to lose, by posting the wrong things on social media.

This article guides you through what admissions offices are looking for, how to protect yourself, and tips for using social media effectively.

DO ADMISSIONS OFFICES REALLY LOOK AT YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA?

The short answer is yes. According to a recent 2018 Kaplan Test Prep survey, 56 percent of law school admissions officers admit to looking at applicants’ social media accounts when assessing candidates for their program. The survey also found that 91 percent of law school admissions officers believe that reviewing social media profiles is “fair game,” rather than “an invasion [of] privacy and shouldn’t be done.”

Though many admissions offices might not have the time, will, or manpower to investigate every single applicant, you must operate with the understanding that your digital activity may be reviewed as part of the decision-making process.

WHY ADMISSIONS OFFICERS ARE LOOKING

Keep in mind the reason why admissions officers are looking through your social media. They’re not interested in what you ate for dinner or where you went on vacation. They are looking for red flags and red flags only.

Though they are reviewing your academic aptitude for graduate school, admissions officers are also vetting your character and fitness to enter into the legal profession. All lawyers must meet high ethical and professional standards to preserve the profession’s integrity and faithfully carry out the rule of law. Ultimately, a state bar has the authority to strip a lawyer of his/her law license for unethical behavior.

It’s for this reason that the character and fitness portion of the law school application and the bar exam are of the utmost importance and often give students anxiety. (If you have character and fitness questions, reach out to us for help and review these tips on how to write your character and fitness addendum.)

Even though you’re only just now thinking about becoming an attorney, you’re held to high standards of conduct and disclosure as soon as you enter law school. Your exercise of good judgment, or lack thereof, is an integral part of the law school admissions review process.

WHAT’S AT RISK

Though it seems like folklore, the fact of the matter is that law schools have rescinded offers based on the online behavior of their admitted students. (Don’t believe me? See, Harvard Rescinds Acceptances for At Least Ten Students for Obscene Memes. Note that the punishable conduct was in a private group chat.)

Though the above example is extreme, you must be aware of what you are saying in conversation to other law school applicants, at admitted student events, and (of course) on social media. Ultimately, you could risk your admissions offer and future legal career on an unnecessary comment or post.

HOW TO KEEP YOURSELF PROTECTED

First and foremost, run through this quick checklist to be sure you’re doing everything necessary to keep yourself protected through the admissions process!

Confirm what admissions officers may see by doing a quick Google search of yourself. If there’s anything questionable, delete it. Increase the privacy on all of your social media accounts, past and present. This includes posts on Reddit, Twitter, Instagram and even law school forums like TopLawSchools. Don’t forget about any relics of your past on Flickr, Facebook or other accounts. Also be sure to review different pages you’ve liked or are actively following that might raise some questions. It’s surprisingly easy to deduce the identity of a student online, so never assume anonymity.

Though I ultimately encourage applicants to deactivate social media accounts for the few months that you are actively applying and interviewing, for many people, that’s just not going to happen. In that case, you must be sure to filter your post history, increase your privacy settings, and give your friends a heads up not to film or tag you in potentially comprising scenarios.

HOW TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA EFFECTIVELY

Once you’ve combed through your online presence or, alternatively, you are admitted to a program of your choice and ready to reactivate your accounts, know that you can effectively interact with law schools on social media.

Law schools have social media accounts and most admissions offices also create their own admitted student groups for you to join.  Follow the law school’s account to see highlights of their academic offerings, student achievements, and alumni accomplishments to better understand what they offer you as a candidate. The admitted student groups also provide a chance to get to know your future classmates. Social events, roommate searches, and frequently asked questions may be answered here. Admissions pages for admitted students may also send reminders about deposit deadlines, upcoming events and orientation information that can be helpful.

These connections can be incredibly useful in the days and months leading up to your start of law school. However, treat every online interaction as if the admissions office will see it. Be cordial, respectful and polite. (Keep in mind, these are also your future friends, classmates, and colleagues you’re speaking to, so there’s no reason not to be nice!

In conclusion, you must weigh the risks and rewards of social media. Know that admissions offices may seriously evaluate your social media activity as part of the admissions review process, and the things you do and say online can have real-life consequences for your future. Be proactive about protecting yourself for law school admission, state bar admission and future employment.


Rachel Margiewicz is the director of Pre-Law Services with JD Advising, a law school and bar exam preparation company offering services ranging from LSAT tutoring and application assistance to bar exam tutoring, courses, and seminars. She is a licensed attorney who spent many years working in law school admissions, successfully coaching applicants through the admissions process.

You can follow her and the JD Advising team on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn. Additional resources, including daily blog posts, are available at www.JDAdvising.com


 

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