How Social Media Affects The College Application Approval Process

The jig is up. Prospective college students are no longer immune from the wandering eyes of college admissions counselors. The internet has become a conduit for private investigation and the nature of the content on students’ social media profiles is slowly being incorporated into the college admissions process.

For years, students suspected they were being watched, but many chose to disregard the notion. However, a new study may have them rethinking their disregard. Kaplan Test Prep recently revealed the results of an eye-opening survey that suggests college admissions officers are looking at more than a paper application to vet potential students.

Social Visibility
Students can no longer hide behind “likes,” “tag” and “tweets.” What is published on the web is now public domain, and colleges are using this content to influence the application decision-making process.
The survey polled 350 college admissions officers from 500 top educational institutions. Results showed that some prospective students do post content that college officers view in a negative light. This content has the potential to exclude the student from acceptance.

The percentage of officers who peruse Google and Facebook to examine prospective students’ profiles increased one percent from last year, but surprisingly, the percentage of internet searches that resulted in a negative opinion of the prospective student increased nearly 23 percent from the preceding year. According to the study, the officers witnessed offenses that included plagiarism, blog post vulgarities, photos of students consuming alcohol and other seemingly illegal practices.

According to Jeff Olson, vice president of data science for Kaplan Test Prep, “Social media used to basically mean Facebook. But the underlying trend we see is the increase in use of Google, which taps into a social media landscape that’s proliferated to include Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, blogging and other platforms — and teens today are using all of these channels. Additionally, we’re seeing a growing cultural ubiquity in social media use, plus a generation that’s grown up with a very fluid sense of privacy norms. In the face of all these trends, the rise in discovery of digital dirty laundry is inevitable.”

Olson noted the inconsistencies between the “model student” identified on the student’s admission application and the reputation viewed on the Internet. The person seen engaging in questionable acts on his or her social profile is often a stark difference to the formal applicant. Olson says, “With regard to college admission, the traditional application — the essays, the letters of recommendation — represents the polished version of an applicant, while often what’s found online is a rawer version of that applicant. Schools are philosophically divided on whether an applicant’s digital trail is fair game, and the majority of admissions officers do not look beyond the submitted application, but our advice to students is to think first, tweet later.”

For and Against
Though the “private investigation” of students’ social profiles has become even more popular, according to Kaplan, 69 percent of the schools that have policies prohibit officers from examining students’ social profiles. However, the remaining schools have the option to “snoop” applicants’ profiles if they choose. Opponents of “social snooping” argue that the admissions officials should respect students’ privacy and their social pages be left to their own domain. Proponents feel a student’s social profile can offer admissions a deeper look into the real person applying to their school. On social profiles, officers can observe how a student behaves outside of the formal college application process.

Social Media and Recruitment
Social media also impacts schools and their recruiting processes. In addition to evaluating students, Kaplan determined that 87 percent use Facebook to recruit new students, while 76 percent use Twitter and 73 percent use YouTube. Social media has become a hotbed of activity and colleges have utilized it to attract and recruit the “cream of the crop” to expand their student base.

  • Kaplan Test on Social Media
  • USA Today Article

Since students will not know the policies of each college to which they apply whether it is an online college or not, it is recommended that social profiles be kept respectful and indicative of the professional correspondence submitted via the formal application. Article written by Nathan Roberson of the marketing robot, Freelance social media consulting advice and independent search and social news.

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