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week's question from
Derrick L. from New York, NY
Can what I post on Facebook affect my chances of getting accepted?
A Racy Facebook profile could ruin your college odds – why risk it?
Do admissions officers look up every student’s page? No, of course not – how could they with 30,000 applicants. But you can’t control the behavior of others – what if a jealous friend were to send a Facebook link to an admissions office in an attempt to sabotage your application? This was a major scandal this year at Choate and several students were expelled/suspended. Though it’s not the norm for admissions officers to actively search out information on a student, they could, especially if there were any warning signs from recommendation letters or any other school information. Admissions officers want students who are upstanding citizens in every way – a salacious Facebook page would be counter to what they are looking for.
Admissions officers don’t routinely check, but be careful
Few college admissions offices have the time, resources or inclination to routinely scour the internet and social media sites for incriminating information on applicants. However, most admissions officers I have spoken to acknowledge that they do occasionally check Facebook or google students if there is something in an applicant’s file that is inconsistent or raises a red flag. Remember, it isn’t appropriate to post anything that could be considered abusive or demeaning to another person. Nor should there be profanity, references to or photos of drugs alcohol or illegal behavior. Always use privacy settings and do not “friend’ admissions officers.
Anything that is in the public domain is fair game, just be careful
As the age of the admissions officers become younger and younger, facebook and other social networks are simply part of their culture. It used to be that admission offices would have a lot of hoops to get through to even access this information. Now many grandparents have a facebook account. While there aren't many schools actively searching students facebook accounts for incriminating information, when you look at who is working in admission there are often many students. Some student could be from your school of hometown. Play this out and it wouldn't take much for inappropriate behavior to reach the eyes of someone in an admission office. Best case scenario is to play it safe!
Are Admissions Officers Too Busy to Care About Facebook Profiles?
Colleges are receiving more applications than ever and it is competitive to get a spot. Knowing that, you should put your energy and effort into making sure you are academically prepared and submitting the strongest application possible. When it comes to Facebook, be smart about your privacy settings and you can control exactly who has access. But, regardless, be aware of how your Facebook posts may be interpreted by someone who doesn’t know you. You should also know my friends/colleagues who are admissions officers tell me they are too swamped to be checking college applicant Facebook profiles.
Be careful, be wise and be mature
I do not specifically know of students who have been advantaged or disadvantaged by what is posted on their sites. There are plenty of stories stating that prospective schools and employers do look to see what is posted with negative outcomes. I am sure that with thousands of applicants they look only if alerted and I have heard that some schools do actively search sites for inappropriate behavior, poor language and other alarming information. Remember that colleges and universities are looking for responsible students to “fit” into their campus.
Booze, Drugs, and Crime, Oh My!
While most college admissions people don’t often have time to check social network sites, in cases where there is something in a student’s application that would give them pause, it does happen. I have seen Facebook photos of: obviously inebriated students guzzling hard liquor, students showing off their intricate, home-made bongs, and students posing proudly with stolen street signs. It would be wise for college applicants to go through their on-line sites and remove any photos or references to any risky or illegal activities. Party photos or friends’ comments about sexual exploits do not create a good impression as well.
Can it? Sure. Will it? Probably not…in most cases
You should think of anything you post on the web as accessible by anybody – including college and university officials. Will they access it? Probably not in most situations, but it depends. At some institutions – generally private and smaller, but not always – someone may try to confirm whether or not something you share on your application is true or significant. Facebook could be one place they look. Think more broadly about ‘admissions’ though…also consider your interests in being ‘accepted’ by particular groups, clubs, sororities/fraternities, etc.
Discretion and Caution are important when using online social media
Most admission offices do not have the staffing resources to constantly check student online social media postings. However, students should be aware that anything posted can be seen and reported by others to a college and future employer. Each situation is different and can result in a variety of consequences, depending on the nature of an inappropriate posting. These consequences can result in denial of admission to college, legal ramifications, school expulsion or suspension and even loss of scholarship. Students are encouraged to use discretion and caution when using social media with friends, family, school or others. Many colleges utilize twitter, Facebook and other online forums so they embrace these interactions with students, but think of it as if you sent them a hand written letter or standing in front of them on campus. You probably want to make a good impression in those settings and therefore should think of the online social media as extension of that experience.
Does your Facebook profile pass the College Admissions "smell test"?
Keep it PG! Delete any uploaded pics (or “tagged” ones) that might show alcohol, illegal substances or sexually suggestive poses. Remove any questionable posts that display a lack of tolerance. Set your Privacy Settings so that only your confirmed “friends” can have access to your profile. And last, relax! Admission officers are too busy reading and holistically evaluating your college applications, not searching for you on Facebook (but don’t go “friend-ing” them either…not appropriate!). In the selective sea of competitive students, why rock the college application boat?
Don't take the chance, use good common sense.
One of the important things to keep in mind about selective college admission is that those evaluating applications are real people – often under 30 years old and often Facebook users themselves. Though the evaluation process typically focuses on what is required of applicants – your completed application, transcript, SAT scores, essays, and letters of recommendation – there are no standard professional guidelines that discourage admission officers from viewing an applicant's Facebook page. So why risk having something posted on your Facebook page that reflects poorly on you? A personal quality that colleges like to see in ALL applicants is good common sense. Use it in all your interactions with public websites.
Don’t expect privacy when posting online, everything can be found
Independent College Search Consultant & Transfer Admissions Advisor
You should have absolutely no expectation of privacy online. Your words and pictures should not portray unethical, illegal, or unflattering behavior. Even with the privacy settings you (hopefully) place on your own account, when posting on another wall, you don’t know who might read it, save it or maliciously use it against you. While I doubt admissions officers have the time to look you up on Facebook, why risk it. As my mother always says, don’t put anything in writing that you would be embarrassed to have your grandmother read 10 minutes, 10 weeks, or 10 years from now!
Facebook can hurt, but also help, when applying to college
While admissions officers aren’t creating fake Facebook profiles or searching for individual students, they do receive anonymous “tips” regarding inappropriate student conduct online. Often, schools are obligated to investigate and offers of admission may be revoked. Use the “grandparent test”—if you wouldn’t want your grandparents to see it, don’t put it online! This applies to your blog, Facebook profile and photos, Twitter tweets, and LiveJournal posts. You can use the Internet to express yourself and show admissions committees your passion. If you’re a photographer or artist, post pictures. Musicians, start a MySpace page devoted to your music.
Facebook can show both the best and worst of you
Be smart, be vigilant, and be mature as you post on Facebook. It is important to know that many admission counselors are just a few years older than you. All are members of the technology generation which make lives very public. It is a wonderful vehicle for illustrating contributions you've made and special accomplishments you've enjoyed with organizations. Keep the information current and consider postings that might reflect the kind of involvement the college might expect from you as a member of their community.
Facebook postings can absolutely hurt your chance of being admitted
Although many admissions office personnel are not as tech savvy as they might wish to be, the student volunteers and workers in the office are, and often the search for student applicants on Facebook falls to them. Many candidates are definite – they are accepted or rejected for obvious reasons – but many more fall in that middle range, so that additional information that can be gleaned from viewing a Facebook page can help the committee make a decision. Inappropriate or compromising content such as party pictures that could be embarrassing should be deleted, going back as far as might be necessary.
Facebook postings can adversely impact admissions chances
Using “The Social Network” can have consequences in the college admissions process! Although admissions officers don’t have time to regularly access applicants’ Facebook walls, a fair percentage of them do look at prospective students’ profiles. Still, students need to realize that if it’s public, it’s possible to see compromising items. If told about something that adversely reflects on your integrity or your behavior, admissions officers may go to Facebook to check it out. If you think it’s inappropriate – whether it’s a photo or a comment – don’t post it! The best advice is to clean things up and keep things private.
However unlikely, it's better to be safe than sorry
Associate Vice President for Admissions & Enrollment Management
Admissions Officers are curious folks. Sometimes, something in an applicant’s file will grab a reviewer’s interest and they may want to learn more about the student. They may search on google or on Facebook to see if they can get more information. Students need to remember that images and statements on the web are not private and are often much more permanent then they realize. If they would hesitate for their mother to see it or read it, they should probably not put it there for the world, or an Admissions Officer, to see.
If there’s any question, just don’t post it!
In my experiences knowing college admission counselors, I can assure you, they’re way too busy to spend time scouring social networking sites. On the other hand, we also know how rapidly and widely information travels. It is very possible your behaviors on these sites could become known to your college even if colleges don’t go looking. So, why take the chance? If you have ANY hesitation as to the appropriateness of material you have posted, take it down! What gauge can you use? Try assuming your college will see your post. If that will embarrass you, don’t post it.
Inappropriate information on Facebook is an accident waiting to happen
Admissions folks neither have the time nor the desire to spend hours checking profiles, but it’s possible for a scorned girlfriend or an extremely competitive classmate to sabotage you. Pictures of your cherished beer can collection or unflattering party photos will do you a disservice. In the college admissions race, view your profile as your grandmother might, and clean up any language and photos she might find offensive. My grandmother used to say “Wear clean underwear in case you get into an accident and have to go to the hospital." You don’t want to get caught wearing ripped boxer shorts!
Internet users should know that there are no secrets
It’s hard to believe that anyone who uses the internet or social media, especially a teenager who is preparing to apply to college, could have missed the message that anything (pictures or words) posted on the internet, emailed, texted, or tweeted could be seen, and possibly misinterpreted. Since the high school records of college applicants are essentially under the microscope during the admissions process, it makes sense that other records (i.e., items posted online) might be scrutinized as well. After all, what’s the point of putting your best foot forward for four years while in school, if only to trip and stumble when posting online?
Let your Facebook page reflect well upon you
Consider this: when you apply to college, you’re asking to join a community. Colleges admit excellent students who also promise to be good roommates, great friends and interesting classmates. Profanities or extreme photos on a Facebook page just don’t reflect well on anyone. You’ve done your best in school and worked hard on your applications. Right now, today, would you want admission staffers to look at your Facebook wall? If not, consider making changes: even if admission staffers don’t read it, potential roommates probably will.
Like most technologies, Facebook can work for or against you
The majority of college admissions officers do not have the time to include an exploration of Facebook and other social media in their decision criteria. However, there are situations when colleges may review online activities such as: Applications for prestigious college scholarships, recruited student athletes may receive a review of online activity by the coaching staff, students interested in selective programs such as honors colleges within a university, students that referenced blogs, videos, portfolios or other online projects in their application, and applications for campus jobs including tour guides and resident advisors. Be smart and make sure your online presence represents you well.
Listen to the voice of Reason
Listen to what Thomas Reason, then Associate Director of Admissions at U.W. Madison posted a few years ago concerning MySpace. "Be careful what you put out there in the public eye. We at Madison will not go looking for it, but if it ends up in our lap, it will be hard to ignore. Exposing oneself or being passed out with one eyebrow shaved off doesn't make a "real" good impression of one’s character." He continued with "I think it is also worth mentioning that a lot of strange and nasty things go on. Example: Other vindictive students/parents forwarding things on (to colleges) that they've found out about others. Yes, it's nasty out there."
Many colleges use social media in the admissions process
A 2008 NACAC survey revealed that 85% of admissions offices use social media to recruit students, and 17% reported that they use social networks to research students. I recall an incident where an applicant’s blog postings contributed to the revocation of their acceptance. Several admissions counselors have revealed to me that they or their interns review applicants’ social media content. This is a step not all colleges have the time to take, but things are moving in this direction. To be safe, use the “grandma rule”…if you wouldn’t want grandma to see it, don’t put it on Facebook.
Maybe. To Be Safe, Use the “Grandma Test” for Facebook
Do they or don’t they? No one - except admissions officers themselves - knows for sure whether they peek at applicant Facebook accounts. Given that a NY Times article by Sarah Perez noted that “30% of today’s employers use Facebook to vet potential employees,” I’d say the chances are pretty good that some do. Emory University professor, Brian Croxall, offers the best advice I’ve ever seen at The Chronicle of Higher Education (http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/six-steps-for-checking-your-facebook-privacy/30402) about how to protect your Facebook privacy. Then there’s the tongue-in-cheek, but oh-so-wise suggestion that to be safe, use the “Grandma test:" never put anything on Facebook that you wouldn’t want Grandma to view.
Online activity can help if the student is in control of the content
Never have I heard a story in which Facebook helped a student in the admission process. In most social networking admission tales the applicant’s Facebook page stomps all over what was a careful application. Even if a student controls what he posts, he cannot control what a friend posts. On the other hand, a student’s homepage has, in the case of at least one student, helped him not only gain admission but receive a large scholarship. His website chronicled the launch of an urban scout troop and the series of events that led him to the idea.
Post publicly only material that would make your grandmother smile
In September 2008, Kaplan surveyed 500 top colleges and discovered 10% of the admissions officers had investigated Facebook sites, discovering, in almost 40% of the cases, questionable content that reflected negatively on the candidate. That was three years ago. Facebook reviews are far more prevalent today and many junior admissions officers are savvy, inveterate users, who, if they need to, can find you on the Web. If you must post something risqué (raucous parties, inflammatory remarks, drug or alcohol use), out of peer pressure…, make sure your privacy settings strictly control access. Otherwise, yes, you are gambling your candidacy.
Posting on Facebook is like putting up a billboard
Director of College Counseling, International & ESL Programs
Yes – what you post on Facebook can really hurt your chances of acceptance at college, finding an internship or a job. Why? Because posting anywhere on the Internet is akin to putting up a billboard on every major highway in the world; it’s not private. If you post inappropriate material or denigrate others online, you are letting the world know that this is who you are. College admissions officers, residential life deans and potential employers are watching and checking. And it’s not just Facebook. YouTube, blogs, Myspace – anything that identifies you is accessible. So, post the positive, eliminate the negative
Stop worrying about admissions counselors, and worry about parents instead
Most admissions counselors have neither the time nor the inclination to surf Facebook for posts by prospective students. We don’t want to be “friends” with applicants and we don’t want to know everything they do in their private – albeit public via social media – lives. Who does? Parents of would-be college roommates, that’s who. Once housing assignments are released, many go online to check out students who will leave an indelible mark on their child. (I still remember some of the things my freshman roommate taught me.) If parents don’t like what they see, they call us and demand a switch.
The implications of posting on social networking sites
The short answer is a resounding YES! College admissions officers are extremely tech savvy and they know that this generation of prospective students is using social networking sites like Facebook all the time so they need to be in tune with it as well. Conscientious students should manage their online presence to ensure there is nothing inappropriate or compromising. Anything that is on the internet is in the public domain. Students should not post anything that they wouldn’t want a college, prospective employer, teacher, or parent to see. There is always a way for people to access this information.
The quick, and probably frustrating, answer is: potentially, but unlikely
Admissions officers barely have time to review each application, let alone dig around the internet for more dirt to consider. That said, they might Google an applicant if the file raises questions. If a student mentions starting a national club, for example, an admissions officer might search for the student or the club to confirm its existence. This could lead them to a Facebook page. As a general rule, don’t post anything on the internet that you wouldn’t share with your parents, teachers, priest, or the checker at the grocery store. Make your entire account private and remember that if you “like” a college page, or “friend” an admissions rep, they can see your profile.
The rise of social media in admissions has benefits and complications
Colleges work hard to stay abreast of the entire spectrum of technology both for recruitment and the gathering of student information. Research shows that 21% of colleges use Facebook in these ways. Just like any other business, all colleges need to be at the top of their game in providing easy and attractive access to prospective students not just nationally but internationally. As for students, many report finding excellent information by linking to enrolled students. They feel they can get straight forward answers to their questions and receive the type of information they need to make an informed decision - information that might not be provided by the admissions office.
Using poor judgment online can affect a student’s admission
In admitting students to campus communities, admission committees consider objective measures of achievement but also factor in subjective elements like good citizenship and social maturity. Given such holistic evaluation, students send in supportive letters, articles touting successes and links to personal blogs. Conversely, when confronted with evidence that students behaved badly and were immature enough to broadcast it, colleges can hardly ignore it. Occasionally rival classmates and meddlesome parents send information anonymously, and sometimes young admission officers spending free time in the same networking environment as applicants, seek it out. Students should therefore be prudent in evaluating their online presence.
What is posted on Facebook can potentially hurt chances of acceptances
It can also hinder students in keeping acceptances. As travel budgets and resources are cut in college admissions offices, many are enhancing their social media focus to connect with students. Recently, I heard two Admissions Deans discuss how posts cost students; one an acceptance and one a scholarship. One posted about an underage, illegal activity he planned on providing his freshman year; his acceptance was rescinded. The other trashed the college, disappointed that she wasn’t accepted to her first choice school. She was being considered for a substantial scholarship, which was awarded to another student because of her post. Why take the risk?
While social networking, portray yourself in a responsible manner.
It is possible that comments posted on social media sites, including facebook, could impact your admission decision. Admissions counselors at Illinois are tech savvy and monitor our official presence on social networks daily. More than likely, your engagement on such sites would only be reviewed if the admissions counselors had a reason. For example, we may search your page if another student/parent reported a disturbing post or you wrote something questionable on our admissions/university page. We understand these are social sites, but if any content is posted that could be perceived as threatening or hurtful, we have an obligation to look into it.
With thousands of applications to read, most officers are too busy for Facebook
Although, if you have indicated on your application that you have done something exceptional, like written a novel, invented something spectacular, or won a prestigious national award, the admission officer might Google you to verify the information. The search could direct them to your Facebook page, so be careful. Young alumni interviewers have been known to search the social networks pages of the students they are about to interview. Always remember anything you post on the internet is there forever.
Would you let your grandmother see your Facebook page?
College admissions officers are generally way too busy for Facebook but, if they have a question or concern, they may look you up. Since many young, tech-savvy people work in admissions, and because you don’t know who your Facebook friends know, you should never have a comment or photo visible or linkable that does not pass “the grandma test”. That means no pictures, links, or posts (even as a joke) aboutpartying, drugs, sex, guns or anything else that could be misinterpreted bysomeone who does not know you. Keep it clean. An admissions officer (or grandma) may be checking!
Would you put it on a billboard?
As you transition to adulthood, your online persona (including your email alias) will become potentially more public and definitely more important. A 2008 Kaplan survey of admissions officers found that 10% of them had looked at applicants’ social networking profiles and that at least one school had rejected an applicant on the basis of statements he made online. Unless something bothers them about an application, admissions readers usually won’t search on your name, but employers often do. Yet you are unlikely ever to find out if that party photo got you rejected, so keep your online identity clean.
Yes, inappropriate postings can hurt chances for admission
The short answer to this question is yes. Facebook, for all its social utility and amusement, can also expose you, your life style, and habits in ways you never imagined. Just like an inappropriate email address can cause admissions officers to wonder about whom they’re dealing with (like email@example.com for instance), photos of drunken parties or embarrassingly intimate poses can raise questions as well. Admissions officers are incredibly busy people and while they may not have time to fish around Facebook for incriminating information, students are often surprised by the ways in which their social networking information finds its way to admissions desks. Use good sense and judgment when posting any information.
Yes, negative online presence can impact college admissions success
Admissions officers can and do review online presence of potential students. Facebook is just one online medium that can be reviewed by admissions officers. It is important that students represent themselves in a responsible manner on and offline, as admissions officers are looking to create a class of students that conduct themselves in an ethical and mature manner.
Your Facebook postings may serve as your unintended college interview
While Facebook postings may seem harmless, unflattering student postings on their Facebook pages indeed have the potential for negatively impacting one’s chances of gaining admission into a college or university. A college-bound student should therefore not engage in Facebook dialogue containing expletives, hate speech, or sexually-suggestive language. In like fashion, a student should not post photographs of themselves that they would be embarrassed for their parent or someone else whom they respect, to view. Admissions staff viewing Facebook pages of this type can informally make negative assumptions about your character, your fit for their institution, and ultimately, your admission to their institution.
Your Facebook Profile could be sending the wrong message
A “picture may be worth a thousand words” but are these the words you want admissions officers to hear? Admissions officers are busy people, and most will not take the time to search for you on Facebook unless they have specific concerns. Perhaps something on your essay raised a red flag, or a recommender might have included something troubling in his comments. Disciplinary issues noted on the application could send the admissions officer to check you out on Facebook. Be discreet about what you post on public websites. If you’d be uncomfortable having your grandmother see it, it probably doesn’t belong.