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How Social Media Can Help, Hurt Law School Admission

Daniel Waldman

Prospective law school applicants might think that admissions officers have neither the time nor the will to comb through the multiple social media accounts used by each applicant, but they would be wrong.

Last fall, 56% of surveyed law school admissions officers said that they've looked at applicants' social media page when evaluating them, and 66% said that they've found things that hurt applicants' chances of getting in, according to Kaplan Test Prep.

[Read: An Overview of the Law School Application.]

Here are ways law school applicants can better use social media to avoid hurting their applications and maybe even reaping some benefits:

-- Google yourself.

-- Tighten up your accounts.

-- Use social media as a source of information.

-- Make connections.

Google yourself. This is likely the first thing a law school admissions officer does when evaluating an application. Even if you're lucky to have a common name like John Smith and the results won't reveal you immediately, don't just assume that the officer will stop there.

Remember that admissions officers know a lot about you from your resume, and can subsequently narrow things down by city, school or workplace and find the person they were looking for.

So see what you can find out by doing that yourself, and don't forget to conduct image searches as well. If it's "John Smith wins award for helping old ladies cross the street" -- great! If it's something more questionable, you might want to add an addendum discussing and explaining the event.

[Read: Do's, Don'ts of Writing a Law School Application Addendum.]

Tighten up your accounts. The more likely result is that the top hits are links to your social media accounts, in which case you should tighten them up.

Before you send your first application, make sure your privacy settings don't allow just anyone to browse your account at will. Even allowing "friends of friends" to see your content might reveal your amusing-but-easily-misconstrued thoughts you shared five years ago.

Keep things as private as possible, and if you think there's any chance that you've ever posted anything that might make a school see you in a negative light, deactivate your accounts for the duration of the application process.

Moreover, remember that the things you post on social media might stay there long after you've stopped using the platform. Do you really remember what you put on your Myspace page 15 years ago? Yes, Myspace still exists, as does everything you've put there; make sure you cover everything when you run your privacy check.

Use social media as a source of information. Almost every law school has Facebook and Twitter pages, which they use to post updates, links to interesting articles and contact information. Beyond their informative value, these things can be valuable to your application.

You can easily mention an article, or the writer, in one of your law school application essays, thus showing that you've done some substantive research, or discuss one of the student organizations often featured on those pages, explaining why it is of specific interest to you.

Additionally, remember that social media isn't limited to just sites like Facebook and Instagram, but also includes forums, which can be a useful source for finding out more about other applicants' experiences with specific schools, from interview questions to acceptance and rejection results. But keep in mind this is user-created content, so it's important to contextualize the data.

[Read: Worst Advice Ever Given to Law School Applicants.]

Make connections. Remember what social media was originally about? Not so much about politics and sharing every thought that goes through one's mind, but rather about bringing people closer together. You can easily find groups and websites that will help you make the transition to law school much easier.

People who are going through the same things as you -- whether it's applying to law school, moving to a new city or fighting the uphill 1L study battle -- make for a great resource for exchanging information, giving advice, finding roommates and hopefully even making friends.

Ultimately, you know your social media history better than anyone, so just be honest with yourself as to how you used it and how it makes you look to a critical observer. If you're unsure and still have some questions, don't hesitate to send them to lawadmissionslowdown@usnews.com.

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