College Applicants May Be “Sanitizing” Social Media Accounts

A Kaplan Test Prep study shows that college admissions officers are looking for "dirt" on applicants via social media channels but are hitting road blocks.

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An annual study by Kaplan Test Prep indicates that while college admissions officers are doing their part to find “dirt” on applicants via social media channels, they’re not finding as much incriminating information as in years past. It seems that students may be “sanitizing” their accounts, as Kaplan called it, in an effort to appear more desirable on applications.

Over a third (35%) of college admissions officers have visited an applicant’s social media page (emphasis added) to learn more about them. This is the highest percentage since Kaplan first began tracking the issue in 2008, when just under one in ten admissions officers reported doing so. But even as this practice becomes more commonplace, college admissions officers are actually finding fewer things online that negatively impact applicants’ chances — just 16% reported doing so this year, down from 30% last year and 35% two years ago.

As noted by Alan Katzman, CEO of social media advisory service Social Assurity, it isn’t clear what types of social media profiles admissions officers are viewing — over time, the number of channels one can have increases and fluctuates. So what’s the deal? Are college applicants getting smarter? Admissions officers not looking hard enough?

The reality is that Facebook just isn’t cool for young people anymore, and teens have flocked to Instagram, Vine, Snapchat and Kik. So, the Kaplan study doesn’t provide us with much direction if it doesn’t address that shift. The problem with some of these outlets is the difficulty of identifying one particular user from a Google search. Facebook lends itself well to this; however, college admissions officers may need new methods for finding information that negatively reflects on applicants.

In the meantime, Katzman said, applicants should start using public social media channels to their advantage. Post videos of your winning touchdown, photos depicting your star role in the musical or volunteering on a Saturday. Admissions officers will still look but hopefully like what they find.

If they don’t, though, they should inform applicants of the reason for being denied admission wrote The Pitt News Editorial Board in response to this study’s findings. Additionally, schools should have a disclaimer on the application stating that social media will be a part of the official review process, the board said.

How can we correct socially unacceptable behaviors if we don’t pinpoint them? It is sometimes difficult to say what constitutes “bad” content on a Facebook wall. Is it posting photos of underage drinking or posting photos of drinking at all, even if you are of age?

You can read more about the Kaplan study here.

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