Research

Survey: Admissions Officers Check Social Media Pages, Students Don't Care

More college admissions officers are looking at applicants' social media pages, but students don't care, according to both admissions officials and high school students who responded to Kaplan Test Prep surveys earlier this year.

Kaplan polled 403 admissions officers last summer and found that 35 percent of those who responded said they had visited applicants' pages to learn more about them. That is the highest percentage since Kaplan started tracking the issue in 2008. Six years ago, only 16 percent of admissions officers who responded said they checked social media pages.

Meanwhile, a second e-mail survey of 520 students in October found that 58 percent of those who responded described their social media activity as "fair game" for admissions officers. More than a third said they thought their chances of getting into a college would be enhanced if admissions officers visited their personal sites while only 3 percent thought it would hurt their chances. Nearly two-thirds of the students who responded said it wouldn't matter much one way or the other.

Kaplan officials said the survey results indicate that, as social media use becomes more ubiquitous, there is a greater acceptance of it is as a tool by college admissions officers. At the same time, students are learning that they will be held accountable for the "digital trails" they leave behind.

In fact, 18 percent of the students surveyed said they plan to use their social media channels to enhance their chances of college admission.

Paralleling that survey finding is the discovery that only 16 percent of the admissions officers surveyed reported finding things that would negatively impact applicants' chances of admissions — compared to 30 percent last year and 35 percent two years ago.

Still, Kaplan Test Prep representatives said social media activity is not playing any kind of significant role in the decisions admissions officials make.

"Admissions chances are still overwhelmingly decided by the traditional factors of high school GPA, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, personal essays and extracurricular activities," said Christine Brown, executive director of K-12 and college prep programs for Kaplan Test Prep. "The bottom line for student is that what you post online likely won't get you into college, but it just might keep you out."

The college admissions officers surveyed by Kaplan Test Prep were from colleges and universities mentioned in the U.S. News & World Report's most recent survey of higher education. Students surveyed had all taken Kaplan's SAT prep course.

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.

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