Social Networks

arrowSocial Networks and University Admissions

It may come as a surprise to some (though it probably shouldn’t) that college and university admission boards are now looking at the social networking profiles of applicants. Yes, your chances of getting into Harvard - or wherever else you’d like to study - may be compromised due to your activity on Facebook or other social networking platforms.

A recent New York Times article pointed out the fact that increasingly, college admissions officers are searching through the social media content associated with individual applicants. The article was based on a recent study by Kaplan Test Prep, which surveyed 381 admissions officers by telephone. The research revealed that nearly a third of admissions staff had viewed the Facebook or other social networking pages of applicants. And among those who viewed profiles, around 30 percent said they encountered content that could have “negatively impacted” a prospect’s chances of being admitted.

Facebook addicted

Though most admissions officers deny that social media footprints are used in any routine way to determine who is accepted, many agreed that negatively perceived social media content could be a factor. Interestingly, the numbers also seem to indicate a drop in the amount of negative content found in applicants’ social network profiles. Apparently more kids and parents are becoming aware of the impact of social media footprints regarding future employment prospects as well as college admissions.

How Serious is the Problem?

Given the fact that kids can be somewhat frivolous or careless about what they say online, it would seem that employers and college admission boards would be inclined to take much of this content with a grain of salt. Teens are impulsive and often overly dramatic, and perhaps not too much should be made of their outbursts when chatting with friends online.

And most of the admissions personnel interviewed were more focused on issues such as hate speech or political extremism, not typical chatting among friends. In many cases, social networking profiles were viewed because an applicant invited the admissions officers to see certain content, such as awards, that might actually help their chances of admission.

So it seems that one’s social networking history can also have a beneficial effect on their chances of being admitted to the college of their choice. In a sense, a Facebook profile can almost work as a resume, and a carefully-maintained social media profile could actually be a boon.

Managing Your Child’s Admission Chances

Concerned parents should make sure their children are aware of the potential impact their social media activity may have. Many kids use an alias online to avoid scrutiny by employers and others, but it makes sense to also have a managed profile that uses the child’s real name.

In fact, some employers these days are skeptical of hiring someone who doesn’t have a public profile - they would like to see potential employees who have a “healthy” number of online friends along with something they can look at to get an idea of what a person is really like. Some parents may also choose to use spy phone software, such as the product made by Highster Mobile, to monitor their children’s online activities and to make sure nothing too controversial is being posted online.