Social Networking

Admissions Officers Turn to Social Media for Fuller Picture of Student Applicants

Forty percent of admissions officers hit up the social media pages of college applicants. Most (89 percent) do so rarely, but more than 1 in 10 (11 percent) do so "often." At the same time, the practice of "Googling" has remained steady at 29 percent.

While 37 percent of these institutional representatives reported that what they've found online has "positively impacted" a candidate's application, an equivalent number said just the opposite.

Those findings come from a survey of almost 400 admissions officers by Kaplan Test Prep. Respondents told the test preparation company that certain triggers compel them to go online in order to enhance their understanding of applicants beyond what has already been provided, such as standardized test scores and grade point average. Reasons include:

  • To learn more about an interest or talent. Often the applicants themselves will invite the school rep to visit a social media page to see examples of their work, such as music, art or writing;
  • To verify awards out of the norm. If an application cites a "particularly distinguished or noteworthy" award, the admissions officer may attempt to verify the claim online;
  • To seek out criminal records or other actions. Respondents told Kaplan that they do this in order to uncover more details when an applicant mentions a criminal background or some type of disciplinary action; and
  • As a background check for scholarship seekers or because the school has received an anonymous tip about a prospect that doesn't put him or her in the best light.

The positive findings that may surface include leadership roles or volunteer work that wasn't mentioned in the application. Negative findings might include photos of drug or alcohol use or some other form of inappropriate behavior.

"The growth of social media hasn't made college admissions a whole new ballgame, but it's definitely impacted the rules," said Yariv Alpher, Kaplan's executive director and head of market research. His advice: "Think about what you share. When in doubt, the best strategy may be to keep it to yourself."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.