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Selfies and Social Media: Reaching Students in New Ways

by sandyadviser
10/06/14 Bookmark

Sandy Jimenez has been a College Access Counselor at the Options Center at Goddard Riverside Community Center since 2000. In 2006, she helped design the first iteration of the Options Institute’s Foundation Course for College Access and Success Counselors. She has worked individually with over 500 students and trained thousands of professionals. Most recently, Sandy has joined NYC College Line as a Senior Adviser, where you can reach her through the Ask an Adviser feature. 



Not long ago, I was the only Options staff member not living in Brooklyn, or at least it felt that way. In truth, I have nothing against Brooklyn. But as the only Queens resident at the time, I was obligated to dial up my Queens pride to 11 and dis Brooklyn at every turn.

Until this day, I am an over-the-top Queens-lover. I will still give anyone gushing about Brooklyn the stink eye. In my personal life, I am a regular at our local parks, library, and street fairs. I love the Queens Zoo and the New York Hall of Science. I’ve even written for our neighborhood paper and a local parent blog. I heart Queens, okay?

My selfie

NYC College Line is hosting a Best in Borough #Selfie Scholarship competition, which ends on October 15 October 24th so #hurry. To enter, students submit an original Instagram-sized selfie that answers the prompt “What place in your borough best represents you?”  One winner will be chosen from each of the five boroughs. Each winner will receive $500.

Of course, I am not eligible to enter but, always the ham, I had to take a selfie. My selfie was taken on my evening commute home. My subway station is elevated and has such a great view of the rest of the city; waiting for the train is the best part of my ride. This is the same commute I made for high school almost two decades ago. Actually, I’ve been riding the 7 train line my whole life, so I have been taking in this view forever.

What about college?

So what’s the connection to college? The idea of a selfie is one that didn’t even exist when I was applying to college or even while I was in college. I didn’t use the internet or email or chat until my Freshman year. I even had to go to a special orientation at the library to learn how to do all of it.

While people may have self-photographed before, the word “selfie” is a new one. That got me to thinking that there are so many words and concepts that didn’t exist a few years ago, much less a few decades ago, which now figure in a big way for my students. I thought it would be fun to go through a few of them.


I still remember video rental stores, setting the VCR to record, and making my own “mixed VHS tapes” of my favorite shows and clips. In my lifetime, we’ve made huge strides in accessing videos of all kinds. The list is a long one: DVD, DVR, webinars, streaming video, and, of course YouTube. How to ace your college interview? See one of the over 12 million videos on YouTube. Can’t visit Stanford? There’s a video for that too. Want to binge watch “Saved by the Bell the College Years”? YouTube it! It’s also a great tool for workshops; I did a workshop on presentation skills a few months ago and found an excellent “what-not-to-do” video.

Colleges are using it too. Goucher College now accepts a student-made YouTube video in place of a traditional application. It’s called the Goucher Video Application. Starting with this year’s class of applicants, students can send a two-minute cell phone video in place of the transcript, test scores, and other application material. Students supplement their video with a brief application, a signed statement of academic integrity, and two works of scholarship. Read more about it here: http://www.goucher.edu/admissions/how-to-apply/video-app.


When I was in college, cell phones weren’t smart yet and the big thing was having the smallest cell phone. Remember chirping? Some people still had beepers.

Now that cell phones are getting bigger, literally and figuratively, you can do almost anything on your cell or other mobile device. I do my banking, request refills from my pharmacy, text my kids’ doctor, read email, and, of course, pass the time playing a little Candy Crush!

For most of my students, a cell phone is a lifeline. It’s usually the only phone at home as well as the only access to the internet. We text appointment reminders and even group text our seniors when we’re having a workshop.

Of course, colleges are capitalizing on cell phone apps. You can take a virtual tour of Harvard on your cell phone. You can check the shuttle bus schedule for Barnard on your cell. Ladies, want to know what dining services is serving up at Wellesley today? There’s an app for that!

Social Media

Once I figured out how to use the internet, in college, I really got into instant messaging and chatting. I made new friends and got into plenty of awkward situations before getting savvy about internet safety. #OopsyDaisy

Social media has blown up since then and is a great way to reach a lot of people. Thanks to social media, my family in the Dominican Republic is seeing my kids grow up. #mamarazzi  

Some of our training participants have found ways to use Facebook in their counseling practice. For example, some have a senior Facebook page where they share information such as SAT dates, college visit opportunities, and information about financial aid. Others instruct students to use their Facebook username and password as the username and password for college-related web sites like College Board and the Common Application.  Hackers would have a field day at that school, but it is a truly great way to help your students remember their passwords! #DontHackMyApp

At this point it’s old news that some colleges check online for applicant profiles and tweets. Using the “grandparent test” is definitely a best practice with social media accounts. In other words, don’t put anything on Facebook, for example, that you wouldn’t want grandma to see! Colleges are also using social media to spread information too, though. NYU has a social media hub on their web site(http://www.nyu.edu/life/student-life/hashtagNYU/social-media-hub.html). It’s basically a directory of their social media accounts—they have about 70, using nine different social media platforms! #gadzooks  Potential applicants can go on these pages and get information on all aspects of NYU, including admissions. #ResearchB4UApply

See here for higher education related hashtags that you can use as you tweet and tumble: https://www.insidehighered.com/twitter_directory.

The moral of the story

As 21st century counselors, we’re working with young people that have always known the internet. Some of them have had Facebook accounts since elementary school. They’ve been emailing their whole lives and they learned to text before they wrote their first school essay. Keeping up with the newest terms and technologies will help us keep up with our students and with the newest trends in admissions. We can also get creative and use these technologies to help be more effective counselors.

How do you use technology and social media to help in your counseling practice? 


  • aatkins

    First and foremost Queens borough represent represent!!

    Secondly I must say that in order to connect best with our students it is necessary to engage in technology. Even at the base level emailing is a great for me to stay in contact with my students.

    I often edit their college essays using google drive and even Naviance a web-based system that some schools use as an efficient way for students to keep their college application process organized and in check.

    I myself have taken a selfie or two and think that the scholarship is not only relatable but easy to do.

  • sandyadviser

    Thanks for your comment, aatkins!

    Emailing and Google drive are absolutely basic tools we must now have in our arsenal in order to reach the most students. A lot of counselors use Google drive not just for essays but for password spreadsheets and college lists. The possibilities are endless.

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