Schools Boost Social Media Scrutiny

Surprised women looking at laptop, canon 1Ds mark III

You better watch out,

You better not post.

With one bad picture,

Your acceptance is toast.

Adcoms are coming online.

That was the lesson from the latest Kaplan Test Prep survey released November 20. According to a survey of 403 college admissions officers this summer, 35% are visiting applicants’ social media pages to learn more about them. This is the highest percentage since Kaplan began conducting the study in 2008, when only one in 10 respondents admitted to visiting prospective student sites.

“We’re seeing greater acceptance of social media use in the college admissions process,” says Christine Brown, executive director of K12 and college prep programs for Kaplan Test Prep. “This means admissions officers are increasingly open to what they once viewed as a dubious practice, while teens have come to terms with the fact that their digital trails are for the most part easily searchable, followable and sometimes judged.”

Applicants are apparently heeding the message. Just 16% of respondents had found anything that would hinder an applicant’s chances, down from 30% in last year’s survey. And a majority of high school students aren’t fazed by their social media sites being monitored. In a separate Kaplan survey of 520 American high school students held in October, 58% considered social media to be “fair game” to admissions officers. Another 62% believed their social media wouldn’t impact their admissions chance, with 35% claiming it would help their chances. In fact, 18% intended to use their social media presence to impress admissions officers and potentially increase their chances of being accepted.

What not to post on social media.  - Facebook photo

What not to post on social media. – Facebook photo

“There’s no doubt social media has become increasingly a part of the admissions process,” Brown admits. “But students should recognize that it still plays only a peripheral role. The majority of admissions officers are not looking at Facebook for applicant information, and even those who are typically do so as an anomaly — because they were flagged, either positively or negatively, to particular applicants.”

While adcoms may emphasize other factors, Brown warns students to be astute about what they post. “Admissions chances are still overwhelmingly decided by the traditional factors of high school GPA, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, personal essays and extracurricular activities.  Applicants’ online personas are really a wild card in the admissions process: the bottom line for students is that what you post online likely won’t get you into college, but it just might keep you out.”

In other words, when in doubt, leave it out.


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