Are colleges using social media as part of the admissions process? Increasingly, it appears to play a role in admissions decision-making at some schools.

 

On November 9, 2013, a New York Times article, “They Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Saw Your Tweets” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/10/business/they-loved-your-gpa-then-they-saw-your-tweets.html?pagewanted=2&_r=2) examined the use of social media in admissions. It opened by relating the story of a high school senior who tweeted derogatory comments about other attendees at a campus information session. While ultimately she was not accepted for academic reasons, the dean of admissions admitted that those tweets could have factored into the admission decision.

 

The colleges contacted for the article told the author that social media checks are not part of their routine admissions process, but some did say admissions officers occasionally reviewed online social media – sometimes at the request of students that refer them to blogs or videos, or to clarify something on the application, and again at times when alerted by others outside the admissions office.

 

It appears that using social media for college admissions is a growing trend. A recent Kaplan Test Prep survey (http://press.kaptest.com/press-releases/kaplan-test-prep-survey-more-college-admissions-officers-checking-applicants-digital-trails-but-most-students-unconcerned) indicates that colleges are increasingly checking social media sites in order to learn more about prospective students. The poll indicated that 29 percent of college admissions officers have Googled an applicant, and 31 percent have visited the applicant’s Facebook page or other social networking site. Compare these numbers to those in 2008, when Kaplan first began tracking this. In 2008, only 10 percent of admissions officers reported checking prospective students’ Facebook pages.

 

The increased scrutiny is one reason why students should actively consider how other people can view them online. Experts, including guidance counselors, recommend that students take the opportunity to look themselves up online and clean up their online presence if necessary. The New York Times article relates that students at Brookline High School in Massachusetts “are taught to delete alcohol-related posts or photographs and to create socially acceptable email addresses.” While many colleges may not check an applicant’s social media presence, an increasing number are doing so. A student’s online presence could end up being the tipping factor in whether a student is admitted or not into a particular school.