A few years ago, I had the opportunity to hear James Miller, Dean of Admissions at Brown University, speak. One of the most surprising things he said was that every year a number of acceptances are rescinded due to an applicant’s poor judgment on a social media website. In fact, a recent Kaplan Test Prep survey of college admissions officers revealed that 31 percent of admissions officers have visited an applicant’s social networking pages to learn more about them.
As a former admissions officer, I have to admit I never looked up students on the Internet. There simply isn’t enough time to do that and read the 300 other files that are beckoning. But there are ways colleges can find out about a student’s social media indiscretions.
Not only will this impact high school students as they apply to college, but, more important, indiscretions on the Web can follow the student/prospective employee forever. After all, when does the correct, incorrect, and/or incomplete information on the Internet expire?
With respect to the admissions process there are certainly shades of gray:
▪ Some admissions officers allow prospective students to “friend” them on Facebook. That connection can provide prospective students with salient information about the admissions process.
▪ Colleges have started Facebook groups for admitted students. Many also have Instagram and Twitter accounts.
▪ Many high school students use social media sites for appropriate fun, and have enabled their privacy settings and can control the content that is uploaded to their accounts.
▪ The Common Application—certainly better than ordering applications from 12 schools via regular mail.
▪ Tufts’ YouTube-optional essay is one in which a student can demonstrate his or her creativity in a different way.
▪ Every year “frenemies” make anonymous calls or send letters to alert an admissions office rep that “Freddie” did not deserve to be admitted because of inappropriate behavior on a social media site, and they use Facebook to prove it.
▪ Even if schools do not have enough time to check their applicants’ social media accounts, they do have a responsibility to check when they receive a tip.
▪ Internet marketers have started bogus sites marketing to, for example, college alums.
▪ E-mail and texting may be an issue, too. The BBC reported that Dr. Ari Juels, the chief scientist of the RSA, an encryption and network security firm, has made clear that the Internet is hardly anonymous.
▪ Tufts’ optional video/YouTube-style essay inspired one student to rap about Tufts in her living room in front of her Christmas tree … I am not sure if it hurt her chances, but I am pretty sure it did not help.
One thing is clear: The Internet makes much of the college application process easier. Many students may not have the foresight to know that their past, as far as the Internet is concerned, does not disappear. Parents who are not social media savvy really should be.