The educational and career-services provider polled nearly 300 college admissions officers and found that 36% of them turn to applicants’ profiles on social platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to learn more about them, up from 25% last year.
Kaplan added that since reaching a high of 40% three years ago, the trend had been downward, caused in part by the emergence of newer platforms such as TikTok and Twitch and in part by prominent use of content that is not publicly accessible or disappears after a certain period of time, such as Stories on Snapchat and Instagram.
The company said 19% of respondents who view applicants’ social media profiles do so “often,” up from 11% in Kaplan’s 2015 survey.
Kaplan said 59% of admissions officers believe visiting applicants’ social media profiles is “fair game,” up slightly from 57% last year, while 41% called it “an invasion of privacy that shouldn’t be done.” A separate survey found that 70% of applicants were OK with their profiles being viewed by admissions officers.
Finally, the results of those profile viewings were mixed, as Kaplan said 38% of respondents were impacted positively by what they saw, while 32% were impacted negatively.
Kaplan director of college prep programs Sam Pritchard said in a release, “In tracking the role of social media in the college admissions process over the past 11 years, what we’re seeing is that while admissions officers have become more ideologically comfortable with the idea of visiting applicants’ social media profiles as part of their decision-making process, in practice, the majority still don’t actually do it. They often tell us that while it shouldn’t be off-limits, they are much more focused on evaluating prospective students on the traditional admissions factors like an applicant’s GPA (grade point average), SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) and ACT scores, letters of recommendation, admissions essay and extracurriculars.”
He added, “We continue to believe that applicants’ social media content remains a wildcard in the admissions process, with what they post possibly being the tipping point of whether they or not they’re admitted to the college of their choice. Our consistent advice to teens is to remain careful and strategic about what they decide to share. In 25 years, you’ll definitely remember where you graduated college from, but you’ll unlikely remember how many people liked that photo of what you did over winter break.”