Social Media and College Applications

We can’t hide from it, social media is EVERYWHERE! We’ve all heard stories how social media postings have resulted in athletes getting kicked off of sports teams for violations of athletic codes, and by this time we are aware that job seekers need to manage their online identities as well since social media has become an additional reference source. What about for College Admissions? Have you given that any thought? You should!

College Admissions Offices are social media savvy. According to Kaplan Test Prep’s most recent survey of college admissions officers reposted that the percentage of admissions officers who visit applicants’ social media pages to learn more about them has hit a record high of 40% — quadruple the percentage who did so in 2008.

Information that can negatively impact college bound students is what you’d expect: references to drugs and alcohol, bullying, nudity, and accusations of plagiarism. So what can you do, other then make good choices and avoid situations that put you in a compromising position? Kaplan recommends:

  1. Limit your profile search-ability so search engines won’t link to your profile. Go to Account – – Privacy Settings – Apps and Websites – Public Search (Edit Settings) and uncheck “Enable Public Search”. Or, if you just want to limit parts of your profile, go to Edit Profile and select the privacy level (Public, Friends, Only Me, Custom) for each profile data point.
  1. Control who can contact you on Facebook. Set your controls so only people who have a mutual friend can contact you. Click Account – Privacy Settings – How You Connect and select “friends of friends.”
  1. Take control of tagging on your profile. Facebook’s default settings allow friends to tag you in their photos, profile posts, and even check you into places. (Does anyone else find that creepy?) Change these settings so only friends can see these posts. Go to “How Tags Work” under Privacy settings and opt out. You can also choose to review all tags before they are linked to your profile so that your friends don’t have the chance to link embarrassing party photos without your permission.

But what are the triggers that prompt admissions officers to look beyond the traditional elements of the application (GPA, standardized test scores, extracurriculars) and turn to Google and Facebook? Admissions officers mentioned several trigger points, both positive and negative:

  • Interest in Talents: Some admissions officer say they will visit an applicant’s social media page — often by the applicant’s own invitation — if the applicant mentions a special talent, for example, such as being a musician, artist, poet, writer, or model. In fact, 42% of admissions officers reported an increase in such invitations compared to two year ago.
  • Verification of Awards: Citation of particularly distinguished or noteworthy awards can sometimes trigger an admissions officer’s online search for independent verification; as one officer noted, something “out of the norm.”
  • Criminal Records or Disciplinary Action: Some admissions officers say that if an applicant mentions they have a criminal background or a record of disciplinary action, they will do some online digging to get more details.
  • Scholarships: Students applying for special scholarships can come under greater scrutiny, as schools want to ensure those receiving the scholarships are fully deserving; extra due diligence can come in the form of online checking. .
  • Admissions Sabotage: Anecdotally, admissions officers say they occasionally get anonymous tips about prospective students pointing them towards inappropriate behavior. They’ll sometimes dig online to see if it has merit.

Kaplan’s survey also found that social media can cut both ways. Thirty-seven percent of admissions officers say that what they’ve found about an applicant positively impacted his or her application — and an equal percentage say that what they found negatively impacted an applicant’s admissions chances. Positive findings included discovery of undisclosed leadership roles or community service, while negative findings included criminal offenses, photos of drug or alcohol use, racial prejudice or inappropriate behavior.

The bottom line…be smart! It’s not just what you are posting but what others post about you. Manage your online identity!!!! If you would like to ensure your student has a positive online footprint we can help. We provide an online background check on the student as well as tactics and strategies to help you set yourself up for success with college admissions on social media. Give us a call if you want to get started 360.580.5106

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