“Unless it’s a matter of checking on something that might be a hate crime or endangering other people, then it becomes a safety issue, but otherwise it’s a privacy issue,” one surveyed admissions officer stated.
Yariv Alpher, Kaplan Test Prep’s executive director of research, has been tracking this issue for a number of years and says many factors could explain the change of attitude and practice in admissions officers.
“We’re seeing the result of combining trends here. On the one hand, students are savvier. They are more careful with what they post and are increasingly using more private social networks. In some cases they also create fake accounts that they only share with friends, but which are not easily attributed to them,” Alpher says.
“On the other hand, admissions officers are increasingly conscious of the need to maintain students’ privacy, and are more inclined to use social media in a more targeted way. Regardless, social media remains an admissions factor for a significant number of colleges, so students should be mindful of what they share.”
Social media in applications
But just because admissions officers aren’t checking students’ social media as often doesn’t mean students shouldn’t continue to use common sense.
Alpher advises students to be thoughtful about what they post, and to avoid things such as making a snap decision and posting an opinion others may find offensive or hurtful.
He also cautions about spending weeks on perfecting a video library on YouTube in the hopes that admissions officers will organically come across it and suggests applicants call it out to them instead.
“Even as technology has allowed college admissions officers to discover more information about their prospective students, it seems they are sticking with the traditional elements of the application to help them make enrollment decisions, like standardized test scores, GPA, letters of recommendation, and personal statements. These factors overwhelmingly decide applicants’ paths,” he says. “Social media remains a wildcard, though from our research, a somewhat diminishing one. We’ll be tracking to see if this trend continues or reverses.”