A recent survey conducted by Kaplan Test Prep found that the number of college admission officers reviewing applicants’ social media pages is on the decline. In 2015, 40% of readers reported checking students’ online presence but in 2018, only 25% did so. Attitudes towards this electronic snooping have also changed with 68% considering an online check as 'fair game' in 2017, while only 57% thought so in 2018. It is interesting to note that when applicants learned that college admission officers were looking at their Facebook pages, they quickly learned how to hide them from the public domain, and moved over to Instagram and Snapchat, which make it very easy for users to more carefully select their audience.
Harvard University made news in June 2018 by rescinding their offers of admission to 10 applicants who had shared postings, in a private Facebook page, that were deeply offensive. In August, the University of Rochester revoked the admission of a young woman who was found to have lied about her school record; her lies were discovered on her Facebook postings. What does this mean for applicants? It means that there is a chance that your college will review your public postings so caution and thoughtfulness is important. Reasons given for that online
review range from a belief that if employers can check, colleges can too; “if it’s public, we can check; and if we see something inappropriate, it impacts our admission decisions”. Students actually seem to agree that it’s fair game for colleges to review their online presence, with over 70% saying that it is reasonable. Of note also is that private colleges review students’ social media pages more frequently than public universities – unsurprising given the volume of applications received.
If there are lessons to be learned in all this, what are they?
You never know:
You can never be sure that your colleges won’t review your online presence so be thoughtful and take some time to clean up anything that may be frowned upon.
You cannot be sure that your college won’t do a sweep of their admitted students’ pages before enrollment.
Consider creating a special page just for you and your close friends, but keep your public pages ready for prime time viewing by admissions officers, just in case.
Build your brand:
Consider using your social media as a marketing tool – do your posts reveal more about who you are and what you care about?
Highlight what sets you apart in your interests and activities.
Make sure you post updates to keep your profile current and impactful.
Do some housekeeping:
Realizing that you won’t know if a college does a check of applicants’ social media pages, it’s best to take the time to go back and check your posts.
Remove anything that fails to reveal your best self.
Delete anything that implies poor choices – bad language, drinking, drug use, racist or hate speech – get rid of everything!
Consider using your social media as a wider representation of both who you are and what you have to share with your colleges. The relatively new Coalition College Application includes an online student portfolio as a key component. How about starting a blog that you can share with your colleges as a way of ‘feeding’ them pertinent and updated information? Never forget that colleges are building a community and, as such, it’s important for you to remember that your offer of admission is not the end of the story – checking on your progress over the summer is as much about reviewing your final official transcript as it is about ensuring your ongoing good citizenship. So make your social media image really count!