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Inside Admissions

Our counselors answered: Do college admissions officers look at applicants' Facebook profiles?

We Asked College Students:
Do college admissions officers look at applicants' Facebook profiles?

Cheryl Millington


The answer is maybe or probably. A study by Kaplan test prep concluded that of the 500 best US universities, 20% Googled an applicant and 24% said they researched candidates using social media. In 2010, the study found 6% of admissions officers checked applicants’ Facebook pages, and 12% said what they found online negatively affected a student’s admissions chances. In my experience, Googling and looking at someone on Facebook is not routine. Quite frankly, my first reaction after reading the about the study was that these admission officers are obviously not very busy. However, if I had some troubling issues on an application, especially for a large scholarship, I would certainly try to get additional information via the internet on a candidate to confirm the information in the file. Just in case this is more common than we want to admit, I recommend that you clean up your digital image or make sure your privacy settings are high enough to not reveal your offensive photos or comments. Good advice not only for university admission, but for future employment or other ‘high-stake’ situations. What is not surprising is the use of social networking to recruit students; 85% use Facebook and 66% use YouTube to reach prospective students. Therefore, while initially Facebook and YouTube may be used legitimately or appropriately, it may only be a question of time before admission officers ‘stumble’ upon your inappropriate behaviour or photos. On the positive side, why not use your Facebook, Twitter and other social networking to present a positive image of yourself. Think of social media as your expanded, digital resume. For example, this is a great medium to talk about your volunteer opportunities and extra-curricular activities. So either way, it's time to clean up your online image or use it to more positively reflect your image!

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Nina Berler

Founder
unCommon Apps

Facebook

On my wall, I posted an article from the Wall Street Journal called "College Students, Beware: Your Facebook Page is Showing." That article was written in 2008, and it makes very clear that admissions officers then surveyed looked at Facebook when sorting through candidates. One would suspect that the number is even higher these days. So applicants, please beware. Use Facebook wisely and post your successes - not your mischief.

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Lora Lewis

Educational Consultant
Lora Lewis Consulting

They might. The media is full of stories these days about students whose less-than-impressive antics have been revealed to colleges through social media. You can never be sure if a college will check your Facebook profile, so why risk it? Keep your public photos and comments PG-13.

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Eric Beers, Ph.D.

College and Career Counselor
Air Academy High School

The last poll I saw was that 30 percent of admission officers say they look at Facebook and other social media profiles and pages. That is a pretty large number, and I think it will continue to grow.

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Benjamin Caldarelli

Partner
Princeton College Consulting, LLC

They can and they do. In addition to your facebook profile, you should Google yourself and make sure your online presence is professional.

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Reecy Aresty

College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author
Payless For College, Inc.

Some do, so if there's sexually explicit or drug related stuff, you could be SOL (Surely Out of Luck)!

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Patricia Krahnke

President/Partner
Global College Search Associates, LLC

They Aren't Supposed To, But...

Short answer: If you are acting like an idiot on FB, stop acting like an idiot on FB. Seriously. Detailed answer: It doesn't have to be something someone finds on FB. If someone Googles you, FB posts and comments can appear without anyone even looking for you in FB. Admissions officers are usually too busy to search for you online; however, if something in your application makes them wonder about you, they may indeed do a search. If they do a search, they are not supposed to use any information they find about you in their decision on your application. But that doesn't mean they won't use it. The fact is, anything that you post on a social media site or send in an email is permanent and can be used in any way, shape, or form by anyone who wants to know more about you -- admissions officers, employers, the government, the law. If your FB posts make you look like a jerk, knock it off. It may very well come back to haunt you in some way, but you probably won't ever know that someone saw it and made a determination about you based on what they discovered. In addition,the information you post can be misconstrued by someone who has no idea the context for your postings. Friends on FB are not necessarily your friends, especially those who might use against you the information they find there. If you leave your laptop on when you're not in your room and your friends or siblings post to your page pretending to be you, it doesn't matter if you protest that it's not you (I know someone this happened to who was applying to grad schools.) The fact is that you didn't protect yourself and your future by guarding your identity, including your personal character and your political/social ideologies. That alone speaks volumes about your maturity and judgement, as well as your ability to be a positive addition to a community of any kind. So, here's a good rule of thumb: If you don't want what you post on FB to show you in a negative light to future employers or college admissions departments, then only post comments, status updates, and photos that you would allow your grandparents to see.

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Lisa Hatch

Independent College Counselor
College Primers

Sometimes.

While your Facebook friends may “Like” that you checked in at Dave and Busters the night before your chem final and that your relationship status is “complicated,” the person in charge of your college admissions status may not be impressed. And yet new studies indicate that admissions folks are almost as likely as your friends to be perusing your Facebook page, meaning yes – those pictures of you celebrating your win at last month’s beer pong tournament might have greater consequences than just the wrath of your mother. In a recent Kaplan study of more than 500 schools, 10 percent of admissions teams said they research prospective students through their use of social media. Perhaps even more alarming is that 30 percent of those who admitted trolling sites like Facebook and Twitter for the inside scoop on their applicants said that their impressions were negatively affected by what they found. You may not consider this type of background research ethical behavior on the part of admissions teams. And you may be right. But ethical or not, it’s a perfectly legal practice, and it’s likely to continue to grow in popularity. Keep in mind that you ultimately have the power over what can and cannot be seen on your pages. One step you can take to protect your image is to beef up the privacy controls over who can view what’s on your profiles – but why take a risk when there’s so much at stake? Perform a quick cleanse of any social media accounts you currently hold. Weed out tweets about, shots of, or allusions to any type of behavior that a college advisor might consider unbecoming. Play it safe. In the process, you’ll get a head start on cleaning up your social presence for your ultimate job search!

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Ellen erichards@ellened.com

Owner
Ellen Richards Admissions Consulting

College admissions officials using social media sites more than ever

Keenly aware that with each passing year the high school population is becoming more and more tech-savvy, college admissions officials are diving into the ever-growing ocean of social media. Admissions officials can now be found on Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. A recent survey conducted by the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth that surveyed hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States found the following statistics: •Only 15% of College Admissions Counselors said they did not use social media for their recruitment for the 2009 admission year, down from 39% the previous year. •The number of colleges using social networking sites and or putting video on their blogs more than doubled from 2007 to 2008. •41% of colleges said they used blogs in admissions, well above the average 16% of large companies' marketing departments that use blogs to commune with the Internet. One number that did not increase was the number of colleges using social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace to research potential students: Only 17% of universities did last year compared to the 21% of universities using social media to research candidates in 2007. Nora Ganim Barnes, director of the Center for Marketing Research that conducted the study, advised that students should think twice about posting damaging material online but adds that none of the colleges said every applicant was checked, saying that more typically colleges used social media to further investigate interested in candidates for scholarships or entry into programs with limited spaces.

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Bill Pruden

Head of Upper School, College Counselor
Ravenscroft School

Sometimes they do and that fact is certainly something that prospective applicants should be aware of. Student can view a school’s Facebook page and get better insight into life at the school, but the school can do the same and that approach can give the school better insight—for good or ill—into the life of the prospective student. This generation has been cautioned about the hazards and the ramification of the on-line profile that they may, however unintentionally, create, and those warnings are certainly applicable to the college admission process.

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