Colleges Poking Around Facebook Pages
It might come down to their Facebook pages.
“During my interview, they said, ‘So, I saw you were visiting a bunch of other colleges. Have you visited Princeton yet?’” said Kilpatrick, a senior at Rome Free Academy. “My Facebook is private, but I guess my photo settings aren’t as strict as I thought.”
Though his Facebook posts didn’t hurt Kilpatrick in the end, good grades and community service hours might not be enough to get students into their dream college anymore. It might come down to their Facebook pages. Studies show that more than a third of college admissions offices are visiting applicants’ social media pages to learn more about them before deciding whether they belong at their institutions. “Admissions officers are increasingly open to what they once viewed as a dubious practice,” said Christine Brown, executive director of K-12 and college prep programs for Kaplan Test Prep, the organization that released the study.
But students are getting smart, too. Two years ago, 35 percent of the time admissions officers checked applicants’ Facebook pages, they found things that negatively impacted their chances of being accepted. Last year it was 30 percent. This year, it’s 16 percent. “Teens have come to terms with the fact that their digital trails are for the most part easily searchable, followable and sometimes judged,” Brown said.
A separate Kaplan survey of more than 500 high school students shows 58 percent describe their social networking pages as “fair game” for admissions officers. In fact, 35 percent of students said that if a college admissions officer were to visit their social networking pages, what they found actually would help their chances of getting in. That’s true for Thomas R. Proctor High School senior Trinh Truong. She even uses her Twitter page to communicate with Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri and area assemblymen.
“I’m really cognizant that colleges and even the community look people up online for a look into them in a nonprofessional setting,” Truong said. “So I keep mine pretty clean.” Truong, whose top choice schools are Yale and Brown University, said she tells her friends to do the same. “I think teenagers hear it all the time, but not a lot of them take it seriously,” Truong said. “I’ve told a few people they should keep their Twitters and Facebooks private if they’re going to post profanity or about partying and drugs.”
Kilpatrick understands kids go to parties and engage in risky behaviors – he just warns them to understand that the Internet retains things forever. “Keep your future in mind,” he said he tells them. “I don’t post anything I wouldn’t want my grandma to see.”
Locally, the practice of checking social media pages before acceptance hasn’t caught on. Dan Shanley, senior assistant director of admissions at Utica College, said his office “respects privacy.” While the school encourages students to interact with them on social media once they become students – even asking them to tweet photos with their acceptance letters – it’s “not something (they) do as part of a review process.” Still, he said, that doesn’t mean students should be irresponsible.
“A great rule of thumb is to make sure social media pages are reflective of them in a professional manner,” Shanley said. “You never know who’s looking. If anyone does, they should get a good sense of who you are.” It’s pretty similar at Colgate University. Officials said they don’t look at social media when making choices. Colgate does, however, teach students to think about social media when applying for jobs.
They tell students to come to Colgate using Facebook 90 percent of the time and LinkedIn 10 percent of the time.
“By senior year, the math should be flipped,” said Manager of Media Communications Matt Hames. “Facebook can cost you a job. LinkedIn can land you a job.”
Published on uticaod.com