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College Admissions: How Social Media Can Ruin Your Application

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Is this on your child's Facebook, Twitter feed, or Instagram? It's all Googleable, and college admissions officers are doing just that.

A Twitter photo of a student making an obscene gesture with liquor bottles in the background, a Facebook posting of a student at a party holding what appears to be a joint, a blog rant using profane language about another student. Thus begins my typical Saturday morning as a private college advisor, Googling my students to see what would appear. These social media posting would likely have admissions officers throwing

a student’s file into the rejection pile. For some reason, kids just don’t seem to grasp that what you post on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and YouTube is FOREVER and is subject to being seen by EVERYONE.

According to a recent survey by Kaplan Test Prep, 27% of college admissions officers say that they Google applicants and 26% check their Facebook profiles during the admissions process. A whopping 35% of admissions reps said they reviewed something on these sites that negatively affected a student’s chances of being accepted. Since last year, this figure has nearly tripled.

The reviews don’t end with admissions departments. Sports team coaches, in particular, seem to like to check out potential athletes. And no one is tracking yet if scholarship committees are Googling applicants. Why do they do it? Colleges and coaches don’t want to invite trouble onto campuses and teams. The student who is brazen enough to post a picture drinking alcohol as a minor or smoking pot illegally isn’t an attractive prospect. Officials want responsible students who will obey the rules. A student who displays an image as a party boy/girl at a young age may also be viewed as a risk for attrition. Even after you are accepted to college, you put your matriculation at risk with questionable postings. Colleges can and will rescind acceptances based on illegal or unethical behavior. Think your privacy settings will protect you? Think again. Most students I know haven’t even met half of their Facebook “friends”. They don’t know who they are letting in, and who has the technological savvy or network to get around privacy settings. Twitter now poses even more of an issue.

So, what is the best way to use Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites during the college admission process and after? First, your postings should reflect who you are in a positive manner. Pictures should be of you, your family, friends, sports, performing and visual arts, etc. Rants should be about your favorite activities, political and social passions, family vacations, camp and the latest goal you scored. You should join the Facebook pages of colleges you are interested in to follow news, connect with existing students, and get admissions advice. And finally, after you are accepted to college, Facebook can be a great way to meet fellow students before you get to campus, and maybe even find a roommate! Quite simply, stay away from any references to drugs, alcohol, sex, bullying, cheating and lying. And be very cautious about pictures that are posted by others which tag you in questionable circumstances.

Social media is a wonderful tool that allows students to glean much more information about colleges than ever before. However, it also makes students far more vulnerable than in past generations as admissions officials peer inside their personal lives and draw conclusions about character and indiscretions. So, the next time you log on, think about if you are comfortable with college admissions reps viewing your latest picture or posting.

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, college counseling and athletic recruiting services for students. www.collegeadvisorsonline.com


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