College for clout? Part one: Thinking critically about online announcements

Congratulations — you’re in! Now what?

Whether it’s silly faces on Snapchat or polished prom photos, sharing the details of our lives is a habit deeply ingrained in today’s ever-connected world. In the context of college admissions, college-bound seniors at Palo Alto High School have many different outlets to tell the world about their college plans.

It’s tempting to jump on the bandwagon, shouting from the rooftops, “I got accepted into ALL of the Ivies!”, and social media makes it easier than ever to do so. However, there are serious disadvantages to broadcasting your post-Paly plans — especially through Facebook — that should not be overlooked. Seniors ought to think critically about their impact on their peers when considering if and when they should share their decisions on different platforms.

When it comes to public announcements, Facebook is where it’s at. In this season, a glimpse at your news feed will reap a heap of status updates revealing which prestigious schools students will attend in the fall, with hundreds of congratulatory likes, hearts and comments beneath it. Sure, there are advantages to sharing your news this way. After all, there’s no better way to inform your long lost aunt or faraway friends about your school of choice. Moreover, updating your college status can provide you more opportunities to connect with other students who are headed to the same college, share your excitement, and perhaps even find roommates or future friends. 

Senior Caity Berry said many of these factors played a role in her decision to update her Facebook status.

“I didn’t want to have to tell each relative individually,” Berry said. “I also wanted to have it on my profile so that other people going to the college could connect with me.”

But according to Angelina Bena Michael, Paly Wellness Outreach Worker, Facebook updates have their drawbacks as well. For as many seniors who are satisfied and excited about their college prospects, there are some who are devastated and Facebook updates can be insensitive to this fact. A post that is so public and so blatant can make others feel inadequate, feeding a toxic culture of student stress.

“You’re really excited about what your plans are for the year,” Michael said. “I understand the reasoning for wanting to share that choice with everyone. But not everyone is in the same place as you.”

With Facebook, timing is everything: scrolling through a flood of enthusiastic status updates the day after decisions are released can feel like a slap in the face to disappointed students. However, after the shock of rejection has worn off and every college-bound student has committed to a school, a post can provide the benefits of sharing on Facebook without many of the drawbacks.

I’m not saying don’t post at all, but maybe wait a little bit and be mindful of other people,” Michael said.

Berry is one of many students who did not share her decision immediately, recognizing the stress it might cause for other seniors.  

“I think it’s more respectful to wait,” Berry said.

Senior Juliet Ablaza also opted for a delayed Facebook post, waiting weeks to post her college decision.

“Obviously after being accepted to a school you should celebrate and be happy with friends and family but it’s also important to keep others’ feelings in mind,” Ablaza said. “It’s possible to be proud and to celebrate without potentially making other people feel worse.”

In the days following an acceptance, seniors have more subtle ways to meet their future classmates and spread their news. If your goal is to connect with students who are heading to your school in the fall, consider joining an official class Facebook page for incoming students. In these groups, accepted students can interact and celebrate with one another, forging connections with students they will likely see come fall.

If your goal is to share your choice with others immediately, what’s wrong with a good old-fashioned conversation, a text message, or even (gasp) a phone call? These are all controlled ways that you can celebrate with your family and friends and minimize the hurt that can be unintentionally caused.

Instagram bios also offer a less obtrusive method for sharing college news. Users on the Instagram platform have the opportunity to create “bios” — short textual descriptions — that are displayed on their profile pages. Regardless of whether the profile is public or private, bios are visible to everyone who views the user’s profile. Students commonly use this to indicate the school that they attend, making it easier for others to find and follow their fellow students. Once one begins taking classes at a college or university, it is expected that their Instagram profile will reflect their new school.

There is a critical difference between posting a Facebook update and modifying one’s Instagram bio: when a person changes their bio, Instagram does not notify one’s followers, nor does the bio appear in anyone’s feed. Instagram bios are only accessible by those who voluntarily view a user’s profile — generally people looking to connect with the user (maybe other future students at the given university) or those particularly concerned with the user’s future plans. Instagram bios are a more discreet method of sharing one’s school of choice that doesn’t force the results of one’s college decisions on one’s peers.

Instagram bios are effective at building connections between future students. Knowing that someone else will be attending the same school as you ensures that you are more comfortable with following them on the platform. Bios are also more considerate to the feelings of others, as no one will see them unless they are looking for them.

Some might say that a reduced scope also means that fewer people will learn of the news (Your aunt who spends five hours a day on Facebook? Nope—she doesn’t use Instagram. Your friend from elementary school? What are the odds they are going to remember to check your Instagram bio?). But an Instagram first, Facebook later policy — a promptly updated bio coupled with a delayed Facebook post — can help a senior get the best of both worlds, successfully navigating the feelings of their peers without leaving friends and family in the dark.

Stay tuned for the second part of this article, where we’ll unpack offline methods for spreading college news, including The Campanile’s Post-Paly Plans map and graduation cap decorations.