As reported on Feb 25 at All Facebook, 82% of college admissions offices now use Facebook and social networking to approach and recruit students. The Kaplan Test Prep surveyed admissions officers in 2010, and released this statistic to All Facebook this month.
This statistic begs the question: how are admissions officers using FB profiles and other information available in a student’s online footprint, to screen and consider students? In short, does an embarassing picture or rude statement made online by a student have the potential to disqualify that student from college admission? Can negative online content put a student at a disadvantage?
At Least For Now, It’s Unclear How Far Admissions Officers Go in Considering Online Footprints of Potential Students
Commentary from All Facebook and Yale Daily News on the Kaplan survey findings, indicates that teens and parents should take note: although the survey did NOT find that most admissions offices use Facebook to screen students – at least not yet – they also reveal that teen profiles are being looked at, and could prove important to break ties between students when all other factors are equal.
At least one admission officer cited by All Facebook, stated that she does look at a student’s online footprint when considering an application. “As an interviewer for Harvard College,” she writes, “I do occasionally Google students I’m interviewing. So that will turn up FB profiles or anything else that is public. As far as I know, we are not given specific instructions to exclude it.”
OSS also reached out to a college prep consultant, a professional in the field who provides help and advice to parents with kids applying to college. He stated that “of course the admissions boards are looking” at the online profiles of kids online. And, in his opinion, online profiles influence decisions whether officers admit as much or not.
Consider the Positive as Well as the Potential Negative
The wise teen will consider the potential that their online footprint may prove to be a factor in the college admissions process. We advise teens to consider this in two ways:
- Consider the negative impression which your online footprint can make, if it includes embarassing pictures and negative statements.
- Consider the positive impression, as well, and what you can learn about a institution by looking at them online before you apply. Admissions boards are looking for better-rounded, socially active students – and online social engagement is part of the positive impression which students can achieve.
OSS has compiled tips and information below which have been shared by StudentAdvisor, HuffingtonPost, MoneyWatch, and others.
5 Tips for Minimizing Negative Footprint Content
- Use privacy settings on your Facebook account, so that admissions officers cannot easily see your posts and pictures – unless you want them to do so. Information on using Facebook privacy settings can be found in many places online, including here at All Facebook.
- On Facebook, don’t accept just anyone’s request to ‘Friend’ – and certainly avoid ‘fake’ Friend requests. This reduces the chance that your information and pictures could be shared by Friends who have not used Facebook’s privacy settings.
- Google yourself – see what an admissions officer will see about you. You may be surprised to find pictures and information freely available, shared by people in your network – such as tagged pictures. If you find these, request that your friends delete them or make them private, as soon as possible. If you cannot get them or other negative content deleted, then as advised by Google you can “try to reduce its visibility in the search results by publishing useful, positive information about yourself…” In other words, drown out the negative with positive.
- Consider using reputation management software like SocioClean to evaluate your online footprint. Take out and change whatever is flagged as potentially negative.
- Consider minimizing use of Facebook games, which may release your private information to game developers. This includes quizzes, surveys, and lists along with games. Although Facebook reversed its original decision to release private information from gamer profiles to third-party gaming companies, they still seem intent to do so sometime in the future.
5 Tips for Mazimixing Positive Profile Impressions
- Follow the social media feeds of any school to which you are planning to apply. Find out what interests them, their school values and concerns. Use this to inform your admission essay and other application material.
- Get to know the educators at your prospective college of choice. See if any of them have blogs, and read them. Many are likely to have published work available online. See if any are on Twitter and follow them. Find out about their social footprints as a way to determine what yours should look like in order to stand out.
- Use blogging tools – available on Facebook and elsewhere – to show off good writing skills and interests.
- Use online associations to demonstrate good community service and involvement.
- Consider including online content including videos and other multi-media, as part of your admission packet – talk about your educational goals and aspirations.