DON’T BE THIS GIRL: “They Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Saw Your Tweets”

March 09, 2016

True story: a prospective student attended a campus information session and proceeded throughout the event to tweet inappropriate comments about her fellow attendees. The college presenters found out. Needless to say, she was not accepted.

These days, it’s not just job applicants who have to deactivate Facebook, scour their posts and untag photos; school applicants need to be just as cognizant of their social media footprint, especially when your online presence can negatively affect your admission chances.

According to Kaplan Test Prep’s most recent survey published in January of this year, the percent of admissions officers who check applicant social media accounts has hit a record high of 40% — 4 times the the percentage of counselors in 2008. Breaking down that 40% figure, of admissions officers who did check social media, 89% said they do so “rarely” while 11% said they do so “often”. Approximately 29% of admissions officers Googled applicants to learn more about them.

The survey sampled 400 college admissions officers and found that some would check social media if the application hit any of the following 5 criteria:

  1. Specific talents: An application mentioning an interest in poetry or music would lead officers to find out more.

  2. Awards: Some admissions officers verify these.

  3. Criminal records or disciplinary actions (required disclosure).

  4. Scholarship applicants: “Schools want to ensure those receiving the scholarships are fully deserving.”

  5. Whistleblowing: Admissions officers occasionally receive anonymous tips pointing them toward “inappropriate behavior.”

But, the survey also found that social media can cut both ways — 37% stumbled on results that shed a positive light on the application; an equal percentage found things that negatively impacted an applicant’s chances of acceptance. Positive findings included undisclosed leadership roles or community service, while negative findings included criminal offenses, photos of drug or alcohol use, racial prejudice and other inappropriate behavior.

Some are concerned that universities might erroneously associate an applicant with an unrelated account. Social media lawyer Bradley Shear cautions that the practice of incorporating social media into an applicant’s evaluation can lead to unfair treatment. This is a valid point. BUT let the mistake be on their part, not on yours.

How you choose to portray yourself is a reflection of your (poor) judgment. I’m sorry, but you’re not being social media-savvy if you’re not savvy enough to manage your social media self. So, the next time you consider boosting your social life image by Instagramming an artsy shot of yourself doing a kegstand as an underage student, take a minute and think about the repercussions it’ll have on your public image aka the image that follows you for the rest of your searchable life.

Time to change those privacy settings!

NOTE: This is why AdmitSee encourages users to choose a username that doesn’t include their full names. It’s all about being smart, managing your social media self, and protecting your own privacy. We all know application essays can get super intimate and personal!

About The Author

Stephanie Shyu
Stephanie Shyu

Steph is our founder and the most prolific consumer of Easy Mac™® within a 3-mile radius of our office. She attended Duke where she was a Div 1 fencer, then picked up a J.D. and a Wharton Certificate focusing on Entrepreneurial Studies from UPenn plus an LL.M. from the University of Hong Kong. She founded an educational charity in rural China and was once an aspiring journalist (as is clearly evident from this artfully crafted author bio). Named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list, she gives interviews and talks about startups and education – email her at steph@admitsee.com.




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