Applying To College? Mind Your Facebook Page

By David Cohen Comment

It’s not just admissions officers for graduate business schools that are probing applicants’ social media accounts: A new survey from Kaplan Test Prep found that 24 percent of undergraduate admissions officers have poked around in a similar fashion.

That 24 percent figure was up from 10 percent in 2008, when Kaplan first began tracking the tracking of applicant’s social networking sites. The test-prep firm added that 20 percent of undergraduate admissions officers have also Googled applicants.

Kaplan believes the 24 percent number should actually be higher, as some respondents said that while they personally did not visit applicants’ social media pages, other colleagues in their offices had done so.

A total of 12 percent of respondents who admitted to probing via social media also said things they discovered in the process had a negative impact on applicants’ admissions chances, with red flags going up for actions including plagiarism, use of profanity, photos of alcohol consumption, and illegal activities.

Kaplan vice president of research Jeff Olson said:

There’s definitely a growing acceptance by college admissions officers in the practice of checking applicants’ digital footprints, but for context, these checks are not routine and tend to happen because of a specific trigger in a particular situation, like an anonymous tip or a posting on an online forum. That said, college applicants need to be particularly mindful of what they post, and may even want to search online to make sure their digital footprint is clean.

On admissions officers actually using Facebook themselves, Olson added:

The growing role of social media in the college admissions process poses potential pitfalls, but also many plusses for applicants. For example, a college’s official admissions page on Facebook allows it to reach prospective students in an environment in which teens are comfortable or expert. They can take virtual campus tours, learn about academic programs, and find out important admissions statistics like the average SAT or ACT scores for accepted students.

Readers: Do you think content on an applicant’s Facebook page should have any bearing on whether or not they are accepted to a college?