Colleges Increasingly Check Applicants’ Social Network Profiles

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NEW YORK, N.Y. – Nearly a quarter of college admissions officers that responded to a survey, said that they checked applicants’ pages on Facebook or other social networking sites, Kaplan Test Prep announced. When Kaplan first began asking in 2008, only 10 percent of schools said that they did.

Of the admissions officers who did tap into these online tools to learn more about prospective students, 12 percent said that what they found negatively impacted the applicant’s admissions chances. Offenses cited included essay plagiarism, vulgarities in blogs, alcohol consumption in photos and “illegal activities.”

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“There’s definitely a growing acceptance by college admissions officers in the practice of checking applicants’ digital footprints, but for context, these checks are not routine and tend to happen because of a specific trigger in a particular situation, like an anonymous tip or a posting on an online forum,” said Jeff Olson, vice president of research, Kaplan Test Prep. “That said, college applicants need to be particularly mindful of what they post, and may even want to search online to make sure their digital footprint is clean.”

According to Kaplan Test Prep’s survey, colleges are more likely to use social media for outreach – 85 percent of schools use Facebook for recruiting, and 66 percent use YouTube.

“The growing role of social media in the college admissions process poses potential pitfalls, but also many plusses for applicants,” said Olson. “For example, a college’s official admissions page on Facebook allows it to reach prospective students in an environment in which teens are comfortable or expert. They can take virtual campus tours, learn about academic programs and find out important admissions statistics like the average SAT or ACT scores for accepted students.”

Students shouldn’t lose focus on academics, though. Of the admissions officers surveyed, 53 percent said that a low high school GPA is the biggest application killer. Nineteen percent pointed to low SAT or ACT scores.

The survey was conducted by phone in July and August 2011 as part of Kaplan Test Prep’s annual survey of admissions officers and includes responses from 359 of the nation’s top 500 colleges and universities, as compiled from U.S. News & World Report’s Ultimate College Guide and Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges. Among the colleges that participated were 38 of the top 50.


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