Fewer College Admissions Officers Are Checking Social Media, But More Are Being Swayed By It

25 percent of admissions officers who use social media to help them make their decisions do so 'often,' more than double last year’s 11 percent

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Fewer college admissions officers are checking out applicants’ social media profiles, but those who do are being influenced—both positively and negatively—by what they see.

Kaplan Test Prep surveyed 365 college admissions officers from schools across the U.S., and its findings included:

  • 35 percent check applicants’ social media profiles, down from 40 percent last year.
  • Of those 35 percent, 47 percent said what they found had a positive impact, up from 37 percent last year, while 42 percent found things that had a negative impact, up from 37 percent last year.
  • 25 percent of admissions officers who use social media to help them make their decisions do so “often,” more than double last year’s 11 percent.

Kaplan Test Prep shared the following examples of positive discoveries on applicants’ social media profiles:

One student described on Twitter that she facilitated an LGBTQ panel for her school, which wasn’t in her application. This made us more interested in her overall and encouraged us to imagine how she would help out the community.

There’s such a negative stereotype of social media that people often forget about the positive effects of it. One student had won an award and had a picture with their principal on their personal page, and it was nice to see.

One young lady started a company with her mom, so it was cool to visit their website.

On the flip side, findings that negatively impacted applicants included:

We found a student’s Twitter account with some really questionable language. It wasn’t quite racist, but it showed a cluelessness that you’d expect of a privileged student who hadn’t seen much of the world. It really ran counter to the rest of her application.

A young man who had been involved in a felony did not disclose his past, which is part of our admissions process. His social media page shared his whole story. If he had been forthcoming, we would not have rescinded his acceptance offer, but we had to.

Kaplan also mentioned that one admissions officer said pictures of a student “brandishing weapons” gave him pause when deciding whether to admit the applicant.

Executive director of research Yariv Alpher said in a release revealing the survey’s findings:

To be clear, the large majority of admissions officers do not visit applicants’ social media sites. However, a meaningful number do, as many note that social media can provide a more authentic and holistic view of applicants beyond the polished applications. And in fact, past Kaplan surveys have shown that a majority of students themselves consider their social networking sites to be “fair game” for admissions officers.

That said, college applicants need to be aware of what others can find about them on social networks and make sure it reflects well on them. For better or worse, social media has become an established factor in college admissions, and it’s more important than ever for applicants to make wise decisions. If you’re not sure what to post, ask a parent or high school counselor. If you’re still not sure, then the best course of action might be to not post it at all.

Readers: Did any of Kaplan’s findings surprise you?

Image courtesy of sshepard/iStock.

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.