Using Facebook in the College Admissions Process

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Be Facebook Savvy in the College Admissions Process

FacebookIn a recent survey conducted by Kaplan Test Prep, it was revealed that nearly a quarter of college admissions officers have used Facebook or other social media or networking sites to research a college applicant. In addition, 20 percent of admissions officers admitted to “Googling” applicants. While colleges don’t spend time regularly trolling facebook and checking out your wall, if you think you’re secure because you’ve adjusted your privacy settings, you need to think again!

While admissions officers are generally not creating fake profiles or searching for individual students, one admissions representative from an Ivy League university said that his office receives a number of anonymous Facebook and Google “tips” each year, and he is obligated to check them out. On at least one occasion, an offer of admission was actually revoked as a result.

How can you keep this from happening to you? Honestly evaluate your profile. Think about whether you want one of your grandparents (yes, really—a grandparent) to see the content you’ve got on there. Or how about the teacher who’s writing your college recommendation? If it doesn’t pass that test, then you need to get rid of it.

The good news is, you can use Facebook to your advantage in the college admissions process. Blogs, Facebook, and Twitter are all about expressing who you are, which is exactly what admissions committees want to see in your resumes and essays. So go ahead and share interesting and relevant articles with your followers or friends, upload your music or photos of your artwork. In addition, many colleges have Facebook pages and Twitter feeds and this can be a great way to learn more about and engage with a school. Read and follow publications or writers that interest you and schools that are on your college list. 

Here are some more Dos and Don’ts from the expert counselors at IvyWise:

DoKnow who your friends are:

Only accept requests from people you know in real life. A few years ago, a group of New Jersey high school students conducted an experiment where they created a fake student profile and tried to “friend” students in the school. By the end of the experiment, almost 60 percent of the students had accepted the friend request from this made up student, and another 55 people had tried to friend her directly! Most of these students didn’t realize that by friending someone they didn’t actually know, they had given an anonymous Facebook user access to all of their online information. Remember—even friends and “frenemies” can take screenshots and email them to admissions officers.

Don’t – Create a fake persona:

Changing your name to avoid being found in search results doesn’t work, as the people who are your existing friends are the often ones sending info. Also, don’t “like” things and alter your profile in the hopes of impressing an admissions officer. Don’t say you’re a fan of Mozart if you prefer Lady Gaga. Don’t say you prefer artsy indie documentaries if you are an action adventure fan. Remember, it’s hard to lie about your love for philosophy, when everyone on your friends list knows you really prefer Marvel.

Do – Use Facebook as an organizational tool:

As you go through high school, use your profile to track achievements, jobs, internships, clubs, sports, goals, interests, and even favorite books. Applications for schools like Columbia and Stanford ask students to list the books they have recently read, and social networks can be a great way to keep track of this. Likewise, it may be difficult to remember every volunteer, sport, or club outing you’ve attended, but if you upload photos of events or tag yourself in photos that others have taken, you can use those as reminders when you start building your resume.

Don’t – Let others control your online presence:

Untag yourself from any questionable photos. Then talk to the person that posted and ask him or her to take it down or crop/remove you from the photo. Even photos where you are not tagged can be sent to an admissions office! Of course, it’s best to not engage in any behavior that may result in a questionable photo. Use private messages for any conversations that might not pass the grandparent test and let your friends know about this new policy. Likewise, don’t post anything on their wall that you wouldn’t want their grandparents to see.


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