Survey: Admission Professionals Sound Off About Social Media Checks

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“You know, colleges can see that. You really should watch what you post.”

It’s a common refrain from parents and teachers throughout the college admission process, but are admission officers actually checking social media?

A new survey by Kaplan Test Prep found that just 25 percent of college admission officers check the social media accounts of prospective students, down from a high of 40 percent in 2015.

There also seems to be a shift in admission officers’ attitudes about checking social media. About 57 percent of survey respondents said social media is “fair game” in determining admission, a drop from 68 percent in the 2017 survey.

“Unless it’s a matter of checking on something that might be a hate crime or endangering other people, then it becomes a safety issue, but otherwise it’s a privacy issue,” one respondent told Kaplan.

This issue came to a head in 2017 when at least 10 students had their admission offers rescinded by Harvard University due to sexually explicit and racist memes they posted in a private Facebook group chat.

“Online expression is really just a matter of common sense: One should never assume that pictures, posts, comments, etc. are anonymous, private, or will just “go away;” and (especially for prospective students or job applicants) don’t put anything out there that you wouldn’t want an admission committee or prospective employer to see,” Timothy Brunold, a NACAC member and USC’s dean of admission, told NACAC last year.

“I believe that all people have a right to express themselves, but that right comes with responsibilities and an implicit willingness to accept the potential consequences that might result.”

It seems most students are ready and willing to accept these consequences. In a separate Kaplan study, 70 percent of students said they believe it’s “fair game” for admission officers to check their social media accounts.

Ashley Dobson is NACAC’s communications manager for content and social media. You can reach her at adobson@nacacnet.org.

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