A Primer on Reddit: History, Terminology, and Admissions

Ashley Thommana
January 29, 2024

Created in 2005, Reddit is an online platform that hosts anonymous community conversations, allowing people to connect and discuss topics with others. Navigating it safely and effectively can help students when looking to apply to colleges.

On the website, each conversation is known as a “sub-reddit” and is denoted by a “r/”. For example, in our article today, we will be discussing several sub-reddits including r/ApplyingtoCollege. Often a quick Google search of the topic you are interested in followed by the keyword “reddit” can take you to the right subreddit.

Within each subreddit, users can make posts. These posts allow them to posit questions, make comments, or start a discussion within the topic of the subreddit. While there are sometimes moderators, who may regulate conversation, these discussions are largely driven by individual posts made by users.

Within the sphere of college admissions, there are a few relevant subreddits to high school students. These discussions allow students to ask questions and receive detailed, personal experiences and advice from others. These subreddits include:

Keep reading to learn more about these communities and how to use them safely to navigate college applications.

Part 1: How to Use Reddit Discussions to Your Advantage: The Benefits of Online Communities in College Applications

1. Asking Questions and Discovering New Information

There can be a lot of mystery around college applications. That is why we at Dewey Smart offer one-on-one discussions with our near-peer tutors, allowing prospective students to get advice from our tutors who have experienced the process.

Certainly, there is a lot of information one needs to know and asking questions on subreddits like r/ApplyingToCollege and r/CollegeApplications can help. Additionally, some schools, like Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), have a school-specific admissions subreddit where you can ask questions (r/MITAdmissions).

Questions about navigating a college portal or about parts of an application are common and can be answered on these subreddits by other posters who have experienced the process or are knowledgeable about it. For example, this link is an example of some of the responses an individual asking for tips for Brown University’s supplemental video introduction received on r/ApplyingToCollege.

In other cases, students use Reddit to ask for advice on which courses to take in high school, which scores they should submit, etc. The input from others can be beneficial in preparing your college application. Use these forums as places to gather ideas and input during high school in preparation for college.

2. Learning More About the Schools on Your List

One of the biggest aspects to consider when applying to colleges is creating your college list, identifying your major, and figuring out what you value when deciding which college to attend. Many times students have questions about which schools will provide them the right opportunities and community to pursue their passions and have an enjoyable college experience. Subreddits are a great place to ask such questions.

While subreddits like r/ApplyingToCollege and r/CollegeAdmissions tend to have more prospective students on them than students who have already applied, there are school specific subreddits.

These are generally for students who attend the school and will have several different posts dedicated to school-specific topics. However, many of these subreddits have FAQ posts for prospective students. For example, r/Cornell, Cornell University’s Reddit page, has a bookmarked post on their subreddit for prospective students: https://www.reddit.com/r/Cornell/wiki/prospectives/.

Similarly, r/UPenn which is the University of Pennsylvania’s subreddit page has a post with users prospective students can reach out to depending on which programs and majors they are interested in.

Even if there isn't a specific FAQ post, prospective students can always post questions about the school/program in these subreddits. Leveraging the direct experiences of students who attend these schools is extremely useful for prospective applicants to understand what resources, opportunities, and communities are available at each school.

3. Celebrating Your Wins

r/ApplyingToCollege has a page dedicated to results for every school. Students can post their acceptances, scholarships, and more, connecting with other students who applied in the same year. This is a great way to share and celebrate your wins along with other students.

Currently, the subreddit is featuring ED and EA acceptances where other students are sharing their wins. Check out this link to see more.

4. Preparing for Standardized Tests

Reddit also has subreddits (r/SAT, r/ACT, and r/APStudents) dedicated to discussion around the SAT, ACT, and APs. Students often use these discussion boards to discuss study timelines, concepts they don't understand, and ask questions about the testing process. Many previous testers also share their experiences with preparing and taking these exams.

This subreddit is useful for younger students thinking ahead for their college admissions applications. For more information on Dewey Smart's academic tutoring options and resources, which include high-quality SAT, ACT, and AP preparation, check out this link.

Part 2: When to Draw The Line: Drawbacks and Dangers

1. Maintaining Anonymity and Safety

While using subreddits during your college application process can help guide you, there are still some points to consider. Anyone can see your posts and profile. The site allows you to be "anonymous" but it is important to follow general internet safety protocols such as avoiding sharing personal details and being respectful online.

Students should not be using this site without parental guidance and oversight to ensure they are being safe and engaging with age-appropriate material.

2. Recognizing Unofficial Information

The subreddits mentioned are great sources of information but it is essential to recognize that they are unofficial sources of information. While you will generally get helpful information about college applications, it is important to keep in mind that this information is not guaranteed to be accurate.

Be sure to do your own research using official sources like the school's website before fully trusting what others say. Generally, the people posting on these forums are not admissions counselors and are not trained or vetted. It is always important to double check and verify.

3. Managing Your Time

Every subreddit has thousands of posts and comments. Filtering through what is relevant to you can be challenging. It is easy to get caught up in reading several posts, even if they are not related to your questions or concerns. So, as you use the site, avoid spending too much time reading posts that may not be relevant to you.

For example, there is a subreddit r/ChanceMe where students can ask people to tell them what their chances are to get into a particular school based on their stats or extracurriculars. Many students may start comparing themselves with the posts of others, spending hours reading  through the subreddit. This can be unproductive and disheartening, as well as inaccurate.

Tying It All Together

Overall, by safely and efficiently using the resources provided by Reddit communities, prospective students can refine their college lists and application materials, ask questions, and learn new, helpful information. Be sure to check out some of the subreddits mentioned in this blog post as well as the many Dewey Smart resources to get started on your college application journey.

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