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High School Students Use Instagram to Help Pick a College, by Laura Stampler

Stashed in: Young Americans, education, Consumer Trends, @laurastampler, Education, Instagram

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A recent survey found that 76% of teens use Instagram.

The graduating class of 2015 will be the first set of students who were able to capture their entire high school experience — from the first day of freshman to the last of senior year — on the photo-sharing app, which was founded in late 2010. So it makes sense that they would use it to not only to follow friends and celebrities, but to research the next stage of their lives as well.

“The natural thing I’d do after visiting a school was to follow it on Instagram,” Morgan Levy, 17, says. The more the New Jersey high school senior looked through school accounts, geotags and hashtags, the more she was drawn to schools that had large athletic departments. She fed off game day energy, which is one of the reasons why she applied early to and accepted a spot at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.

“When I began looking at schools I didn’t think I’d end up at a division one sports school,” she says. “I never thought I’d be sitting here watching the first round of March Madness.”

Instagram that would act as a red flag.

“I definitely did find some things that bothered me,” she says. “Some campuses seemed more socially oriented towards a lot of partying and that overwhelmed me a little bit.”

Instagram provides an unfiltered look at a campus via filtered photographs-in contrast to the often highly curated pictures on a school’s official Instagram feed.

“I’ve noticed that we’ve all been using Instagram to see the authentic side of the college, beyond the pretty, glossy brochures,” Isabel Song, 18, says.

The Colorado senior is in the process of hearing back from the 21 schools she applied to. “Now I really want to see where I can fit in with students,” she says. “If I find a really cool post I’ll go through the student’s Instagram page. It shows them out with friends and being social, but they’ll also show community things going on.”

Song hopes to be a pediatric oncologist, so she keeps an eye out for Instagram photos that show undergraduates doing scientific research. Although she’s wary of student Instagram feeds that are over-filled with activities, indicating it might be an environment in which students overextend themselves.

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