Can what I post on Facebook affect my chances of getting accepted?

College Search

Our counselors answered:

Can what I post on Facebook affect my chances of getting accepted?

Anne Richardson
Director of College Counseling, International & ESL Programs Kents Hill School

Posting on Facebook is like putting up a billboard...

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

Carolyn Blair
Counseling Services Director & College Counselor Clayton High School

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!

Danny Reynolds
Director of College Counseling Palmer Trinity School

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.

Deborah Shames
Independent College Search Consultant & Transfer Admissions Advisor

Don’t expect privacy when posting online, everything can be found...

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! 

Francine Block
President American College Admissions Consultants

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."

Gail Grand
President The College Advisor Inc.

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.

Gwyeth Smith
President & CEO College Quest Inc.

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.

Hamilton Gregg
Educational Consultant Private Practice

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.

Howard Verman
Senior Associate Strategies For College

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.

James Montoya
Vice President of Higher Education The College Board

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.