Posted October 05, 2011 by

More Colleges Checking Out Applicants on their Facebook Pages

College hopefuls, beware what you include on your social networking page(s)!

According to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2011 survey of college admissions officers*, nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents from the schools surveyed have gone to an applicant’s Facebook or other social networking page to learn more about them, while 20% have Googled them.  When Kaplan first began tracking the issue in 2008, only 10% of schools reported checking applicants’ social networking pages.  In fact, survey responses indicate the prevalence of social media vetting is likely higher, since several respondents noted that while they had not personally visited an applicant’s page, other colleagues in their office had.     

 Of the admissions officers who did tap into these online tools to learn more about prospective students, 12% 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.”  “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.”  More prevalent is the use of social media for outreach purposes.  Kaplan Test Prep’s survey also finds that Facebook and YouTube are increasingly important recruiting tools for colleges – 85% use Facebook (up from 82% in the 2010 survey) and 66% use YouTube (up from 52% in the 2010 survey) to vie for the interest of prospective students. “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.”   Other key survey results from Kaplan Test Prep’s 2011 survey of college admissions officers:

  • Biggest Application Killer: 53% of admissions officers said that a low high school GPA is the biggest application killer.  Placing second at 19% is a low SAT or ACT score.  Those who are not involved in everything from the Future Farmers of America to cheerleading and everything in between can take solace in that none said a lack of extracurricular activities is the biggest application killer.
  • Are Applicants Dreaming Too Big?: While all applicants should have their “reach schools”  and nobody should apply to just “safety schools,” 4% of admissions officer s said that more than 5 in 10 students “overreached” in applying to their school; 5% said 5 in 10 applicants overreached; 8% said 4 in 10 applicants.
  • When in Doubt, Don’t Wait:  42% of college admissions officers said that the best way for applicants to get off the waitlist and into the entering class is by showing that they  improved their  GPA the second half of senior year.  That means they should get their senioritis vaccinations now!  It can make a big difference in how students’ college plans turn out.
  • All Dogs Go to College?: Not yet. While 38% of admissions officers said their school has housing where pets are permitted, only 10% of that group said that dogs were welcome.  Cat lovers won’t be happy either – only 8% allow cats.  25% allow reptiles.  Fish are permitted by 99% of schools.
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