Without the internet, you and I would not be having this conversation today. If you found me through Facebook, Tumblr or Twitter, then we clearly would not be otherwise connected. Social media has been a blessing, a democratizing force for information, a way to learn and grow intellectually as well as be entertained. <Insert random cat video here> But having so much information at your fingertips can also be a bad thing.
Since the beginning of the World Wide Web about twenty years ago (April 1993 to be exact—thanks Wikipedia!), our lives have become more and more flooded with information—much of it good, but much more of it questionable or even bad.
Social media can be a terrific thing. Facebook is great for building communities and supports conversations among multiple participants in a way that email just can’t. I’m still a member of a couple Yahoo Groups, for example, but they’re all but dead, while those same communities are alive and well on Facebook. Facebook is also my favorite place to share articles I find interesting so I can discuss them with others.
Another good place to share articles and other resources, though not necessarily to discuss them, is Twitter. By following the major players in college info and reporting (@InsideHigherEd, @NYTedlife, @FAFSA, @ACTstudent, @collegeboard, for example), parents and students can get an inside look at what is going on in the world of college admissions. Tumblr, Instagram and other highly visual sites allow a bit more information to be exchanged, but they are primarily a site for pictures and feel.
The biggest problem with social media is that it can be very easy to assume that you know all about a place from following their Tumblr or their student blogs. Likewise, it's easy to believe you know everything there is to know about applying to college, or financial aid, or college entrance exams, because you've done some googling and read some sites. Most of the information that you find on the web is either extremely general, incomplete or otherwise misleading. Watch out for conflicts of interest--even ACT doesn't want to alienate the education establishment by admitting you don't get better at the reading section by doing more reading. Be sure to wear your skeptical hat and chase down any information which seems to be parroting a party line, or being entirely contrarian. The real answer is probably somewhere in the middle.
Lessa Scherrer is an college admissions consultant who has worked with college-bound students for many years. She is a member of NACAC and WACAC and also teaches ACT Prep, speed-reading, college study skills and college-level writing.
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