Do College Admissions Check Applicant Social Media?

There are a lot of things to consider as a parent attempting to guide your child’s college application process. His social media profiles and activity, what we like to call his Social Score, might be pretty far down the list or not a consideration at all.

Do college admission departments check social media? It’s possible that the schools say they don’t, but that the admission staff members actually do. Let us explain.dartmouth-college

Kaplan Test Prep’s annual survey is generally taken as gospel in the industry on this score. In the results or their 2014 survey, Kaplan found that 35% of college admission departments check social media, and in the survey period, 16% of them found something that negatively impacted an applicant. If you’re a parent and that is the only information you have to go on, you might conclude that the risk for your teen vis a vis his digital footprint is low.

We have no doubt that Kaplan’s contacts reach into the highest levels of admission departments, and that their results reflect the schools’ “official” policy. New research this week reveals that the number of admissions officers turning to the web to vet candidates may be much higher.

As part of her graduate thesis, Christine Badowski Koenig, a former Chicago Tribune staffer, surveyed 144 colleges in the Chicago area to ascertain whether schools actually were checking online.

43 schools replied, and of those 67% admitted to Googling prospective students, and 84% admitted to checking applicant social media. Your child’s online footprint may be more important than you know.

According to the survey, admissions officers are checking “to protect their school, its reputation, and to avoid potential bad apples from spoiling their brand”, among other things.

We have some theories on why this informal survey’s numbers are so much higher than the more official Kaplan version.

  • The schools are protective of their image, and some parents of applicants may (do!) view an online check as an invasion of privacy
  • It’s human nature to Google people, and admissions officers are indeed human. A Google or Facebook check is second nature to many people these days, especially young adults
  • The admissions officers are protecting themselves. No admissions staffer would want to be the one who recommended admitting a bad apple

If the numbers are this high, wouldn’t there be more buzz in the parenting community about it? Well, one thing we’ve heard from some college employees is that if an applicant is not admitted because of something found online – i.e. not part of the “official” admittance criteria – the student never hears about it. It’s much easier to just move on to the next applicant.

If your teens is active online and wading into the admissions process, there’s a very real chance that there is something online or in is his social media accounts that looks bad, even if it wasn’t intended that way. It’s worth your while to find out.

You can check out a live example of our Social Score here.



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