REPORT: Facebook Profiles Are Now Part Of 80% Colleges' Admissions Outreach

Recruiters aren't the only ones looking at candidates' Facebook profiles. Four out of every five college admissions offices recruit prospective students on the social network.

Recruiters aren’t the only ones looking at candidates’ Facebook profiles. Four out of every five college admissions offices use the social network to recruit students.

That statistic comes from Kaplan Test Prep’s 2010 survey of college admissions officers. And like the company’s Senior Communication Manager Russell Schaffer clarified in an email, “we found that 82 percent of admissions officers reported that their school is using Facebook to recruit students.”

That doesn’t mean that the content of a Facebook profile factors into decisions on whether to admit students, but we suspect that the more competitive institutions might pay more attention to applicants’ social media presences. Other schools might simply look online to find students and encourage them to apply. A Quora thread this week backs up that theory, especially a post therein by Allison Oster:

As an interviewer for Harvard College, I do occasionally Google students I’m interviewing. So that will turn up FB profiles or anything else that is public. As far as I know, we are not given specific instructions to exclude it.

I think it’s always better to be safe than sorry — when you apply to college you spend such a long time crafting an image through your applications and essays that to be careless about your online data is just silly.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have a FB profile — just make it private if you’re going to use it for inside jokes and silly photos. If you happen to write about your volunteer activities and the online business you started, it’s fine to leave it up.

Does a FB profile or a website prejudice me before I meet a candidate?

Yes. Absolutely.

I try not to let it. But all people are influenced by details and nuances. That’s why first impressions are still valuable. That’s why it’s important to remember to write thank you notes, to dress up for your interview, and to say please and thank you.

If you care about your college career, one of the best things you can do is google yourself, then pull anything off that you wouldn’t voluntarily show your parents’ friends.

We’ve seen and heard many stories about adults not getting jobs because of their Facebook profiles, so the mere idea that 17-year-olds’ activity on the social network could influence their college admissions may seem pretty harsh.

Then again, put yourself in the shoes of the typical college admissions officer, whose decisionmaking responsibilities get more difficult every year. Competition has crescendoed to peak levels, thanks to 30 years of College Board statistics continuing to show that college educations enable people to earn more money professionally.

A Facebook profile obviously doesn’t hold as much weight as grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, teacher recommendations and essays. But when you’re looking at a tie between equally talented students, social media content could be the tiebreaker.

That makes it critical for the most competitive students to heed the brilliant advice from StudentAdvisor: Follow the social media feeds of any school one plans to apply to; use blogging tools on Facebook and elsewhere to show off good writing skills; make good use of the privacy settings to limit what college admissions officers might see; and for extra credit, consider uploading a video talking about why you want a particular institution to admit you.

Readers, what do you think about the revelation that colleges look at Facebook profiles of prospective students?